Monday, January 20, 2014

Home & Free - The Story of a Little Sister

After just 2.5 days in the NICU, Claire was released into our Mother-Baby room. Our first time having a baby in Mother-Baby. It was pretty magical. Her NICU stay was quite short considering her gestational age of just 4 hours into 36 weeks. She was on oxygen for her first 10 hours of life (gradually being weaned and really just in case) and completely on room air by that evening. She had a feeding tube inserted, but it was never used and also removed on her birthday. Considering the meconium in her fluid, they gave her antibiotics over the course of the two-day stay.

The first attempt at breastfeeding was a success. For being four weeks early, she latched quickly and well. Though small, she is mighty. She still gets tired at the breast and is given expressed breastmilk after each feeding to top her off, which means I am pumping a few times a day. Benjamin was slow to latch and feed and even had a feeding tube (and longer NICU stay) at an entire week older. That whole "lazy white boy" term proved to be more than true. Did you know African American girls are the best at early birth in all developmental areas? Interesting. Girls in general fare better and thankfully, Claire sure did.

I'm still recovering. The physical effects of the emergency C-section are no different than any other C-section. I'm on Motrin and no narcotics. I'd say the hardest part physically is not being able to pick up Benjamin. He has been a trooper about holding my hand down the stairs instead of Mom picking him up, so that's good. My parents have been in town and have been a great help, so that's been easier on the recovery as well. Things will get a lot harder once my parents are gone and we're going through day-to-day trying to keep things normalized for Benjamin.

The emotional recovery. Well, if you know our story well enough as most of you do, pregnancy and growing our family has not been an easy task. Each pregnancy I've had ended in tragedy, almost tragedy, and/or heavy complications. I'm still not sure how I was dealt such cards, but it's hard to complain when we are holding the life of a precious daughter in our arms today. I struggle with the thought of why we were put through the wringer and why we were spared this time. And why not with Andrew? Why not all of my friends who have lost babies and multiple babies? How did my doctor have such incredible intuition? Did that Cholestasis that kickstarted the last 4 weeks of crazy mayhem and doctor intervention cause my daughter's almost demise, or was it the savior that landed me in the hospital that night for extra monitoring which ultimately saved her life? I do believe a blog post about Cholestasis is in order to get it out on the web. It's so important that moms fight for testing if symptoms are present.

My OB who had been carrying my case throughout Benjamin and Claire's pregnancies exclusively came to visit me 5 hours after Claire was born. It was just past 9:00 a.m. on January 14th and she was supposed to be my delivering OB (as she was with Benjamin... yet she's never delivered any of my babies!). She rushed into my room and took me into her arms. She told us that when she called in this morning to check on my status and they told her I was "crashed" and had an emergency C-section in the middle of the night, she nearly dropped the phone. She couldn't believe it and was so relieved. She said that countless doctors including the NICU doctor who was present with his team at Claire's birth all asked her why she chose to admit me that night rather than wait until morning. When I was admitted that night, they were all questioning it and thought it was weird and odd. I wasn't being induced that evening and it really made no logical sense, especially since I had perfect NSTs that weekend. She didn't know. It was just her intuition and wanting me to get some rest because I had been through enough with the itching and scariness. My OB told me right there that she couldn't believe the record of decelerations she saw on my chart from that night and if I was not there that night, Claire would not have made it. Just typing that makes me cry big, huge tears. We're so lucky, and yet, so unlucky.

Without having lost Andrew, neither Benjamin nor Claire would be here. Benjamin based on timeline and possibly complications that could've lead to his birth ending horribly (Polyhydramios, cord issues, poor NSTs) and Claire because the Cholestasis would've been written off and not been admitted that evening. But because we lost him, the doctors were taking our case very seriously-- after I demanded those blood tests. It is so, so important to advocate for yourself and your baby. I don't like to think about Andrew "saving" them, because I'm not willing to allow the thought of me having to sacrifice my firstborn to have some kind of normalcy and family, especially when others don't have to go through any odds to achieve "the dream" like many of us loss families. But the connection to losing Andrew is something that has changed the outcome of our family dramatically.

Here are some photos of Claire's birthday, along with more storyline.

Left: taken at home as I was getting ready for my last night with my boys before being admitted for my induction the next morning. We went to Barnes & Noble (toddlers love escalators & train sets), Subway so I could eat... even though I had two dinners that night..., and for frozen yogurt before the boys dropped me off at the hospital. They went to Chipotle for dinner and I settled into my fancy hospital gown (right pic) in room 108 where I was "going to deliver" the next morning, said the nurse who admitted me. I walked by Andrew's room (120) on the way to this room. I settled in with the monitors tracking Claire and my contractions, watched The Bachelor, wrote a blog post, ate stir fry for dinner #2 and took an Ambien before drifting off to sleep...
As Elliot wrote in the last blog post about Claire's unexpected delivery, he did not receive my phonecall as I was being wheeled into the OR by a team of nurses, the delivering OB, the anesthesiologist, NICU doctor and their team... and whoever else was in that room. There were a lot of people. I left him a message with something very casual like, "Going in for an emergency C-section. Bye." He may never live down not receiving my phonecall. Note to other husbands out there whose wives are alone in a hospital overnight-- don't keep your phone on silent.

My friend Kristi was my on-call person who would show up in the event of an emergency to relieve Elliot and stay with Benjamin who was sound asleep, but I called her the night before telling her with 100% certainty that we would not be needing her and that she didn't have to wait by the phone. After all, I was being monitored, so nothing could happen, right?

I remember being wheeled in, being asked to move over to the delivery room bed, telling the nurse what my passcode on my phone was along with my husband's name (so she could call him after my unsuccessful attempt--and I totally used Siri to call Elliot but failed, haha), telling the anesthesiologist to please knock me out before they start cutting, a gush of liquid across my belly, an oxygen mask on my face, and the anesthesiologist grabbing my jaw tightly with his big football player hands to get me knocked out immediately. I also remember someone saying something about arms and being strapped down. The rest is lost.

Elliot finally answered and the nurses asked him if he had been receiving their calls--apparently called a few times. Nothing like knowing my husband was sleeping soundly while I was going through a major emergency abdominal surgery and that our daughter's life was on the line. He couldn't believe it and neither could I... though even if he were there, he would not have been allowed in the room and it might have been more traumatic for everyone. He remembers asking if we were okay and they said we were both alive. When he arrived, the nurses were discussing "Where they wanted Mr. Wilson", which scared him a bit.

Claire was born at 4:17 a.m. and these photos of me in the recovery room (which I don't remember at all except Elliot and the anesthesiologist talking about Elliot's hat from Antique Archaeology) are all we have of that time. Apparently I'm quite funny under general anesthesia and morphine, because Elliot remembers me cracking jokes (!) with the anesthesiologist. These photos were taken at 7:19 a.m., thanks to the photo properties for keeping track. It had been 3 hours since she was born and we had yet to see her. Elliot was asked by the nurses if he wanted to see Claire or me first-- he chose me (wise, husband). He actually arrived in the recovery room before I did, though I truly have no known knowledge of any of this, or seeing Elliot at all. My first memory when I woke up that is visual was being wheeled down into the NICU to see Claire for the first time with Elliot. The NICU was huge, the rooms were all private, and less than a year old. It was an entirely different NICU than Benjamin experienced.
Apparently I asked for tissues. I was crying I guess.
My first memory of seeing Claire was noticing that she was small (no surprise as she was my smallest and youngest baby by gestation) and was sucking on a pacifier. I was amazed she had the sucking ability for being so young. It's wild to think that many people saw Claire in her first 3 hours of life and we had yet to see her at all. Many doctors and nurses were caring for her, cleaning her and dressing her... and yet we had not been around. That's still something we have been chatting about because of how abnormal it was. She was alive in this world hours before we met her. And while of course we wished the circumstances were different, we wouldn't trade the diligence and intuition of those nurses and doctors that night. I also oddly remember my nurse from my room 108 "delivery room" being pregnant. Odd what pieces I've managed to collect.
In recovery mode. Morphine (which apparently I was pressing often until I realized what it was) made me SO drowsy and unable to keep my eyes open. Yet, I couldn't sleep at all. Between our Mother-Baby room and seeing Claire in her private NICU room. I remember trying to get up to get in the wheelchair to see her for the second time and getting dizzy. I didn't get to see her again (since that 8-ish a.m. first meeting being wheeled in from my OR bed) until that evening when I could stand up on my own and make it to the wheelchair for my ride down to the NICU. We were put on the second floor of Mother-Baby to be close to Claire... as the NICU is also on the second floor. That proved to be quite nice as we visited her often, just like Benjamin, to feed, breastfeed, and hold. The leg cuffs were to prevent clotting and lower swelling. They were horrible, itchy, sweaty, and didn't prevent swelling as I still can't wear normal shoes at 6 days postpartum-- though the swelling is reducing, thankfully.
In the meantime, Benjamin was being cared with the best hands possible. Our friend Danielle took him to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast (note donut hands grabbing for more), the children's museum, playhouse, and he ate super well for her!
On Wednesday (after my parents arrived Tuesday night and took over for Danielle), they came to visit and meet Claire. Benjamin did not meet her that evening because NICU has strict orders against anyone under 16. Elliot took Benjamin down to the Ronald McDonald House to check out their fun kid toys and things. The hospital social worker (who also runs the SHARE program for pregnancy loss... I'm telling all comes full circle for us...) told us we were welcome there to stay or visit and remembered us from last time. If you don't remember that fiasco and story, here's Benjamin's birth story about the Ronald McDonald House not being open despite the signs saying they were and us sleeping in the lobby because we refused to leave. The social worker picked out a special toy for Benjamin and everything.
Finally in Mother-Baby with our baby girl. We were released by my rockstar OB around 1:30 p.m. on Friday the 17th and headed home. I was wheelchaired to the car as I was after the births of my boys and walked the two feet from chair to car in my socks because I didn't have shoes that fit my swollen feet. I didn't care. Get. us. home.
She's doing incredible. At birth she was 6lb. 1oz. and dropped to 5lb. 13oz. at discharge. She is now up to 5lb. 14oz. with just 3 ounces to go until she's met birth weight. She's sleeping, eating, being all around amazing and has turned Benjamin's world upside down. That's for another post.


Sneaker Teacher said... [Reply to comment]

So happy for you Brandy. It wasn't easy, that's for sure, but Claire sounds like a trooper. What a great surprise that her stay in the NICU wasn't that long and you get to have her at home! Rest up and recover! Congratulations!

Unknown said... [Reply to comment]

Congratulations!! I am so glad your doctor listened to her intuition and got you checked into the hospital when she did.

Claire is beautiful :)


Party of Three Heads said... [Reply to comment]
This comment has been removed by the author.
Party of Three Heads said... [Reply to comment]

Sooo happy for you... but really cried a few big fat tears at how this could have ended in a tragedy, once again. Gives me goose bumps. Had to giggle though at how it's turned Benjamin's world upside down! :)

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

The last picture of you holding your little girl... It's gorgeous. Your face has such relief and happiness which is so wonderful to see.

Oh man. I'm still boggled by how this all unfolded. I want to hug your OB for admitting you that night, but really it was YOU. Your advocating for Claire and yourself when cholestasis appeared, your demanding of the blood tests.... You are the reason that baby girl is home right now. Rockstar OB? Yeah sure. But rockstar mom no doubt.

AlliFerg said... [Reply to comment]

She is so gorgeous! So happy you're both home and everyone is doing well :)

AlliFerg said... [Reply to comment]

She is so gorgeous! So happy you're both home and everyone is doing well :)

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

It is such a joy to read this, I'm so glad you're home, I can't wait to get to know this little one.

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

It is such a joy to read this, I'm so glad you're home, I can't wait to get to know this little one.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

I feel like I can identify with so much of your story though mine had a different outcome. The choas and craziness, the disconnect trying to reach Elliott and the team of people meeting your daughter before you. Reading about Claire gives me goosebumps. She is a force to be reckoned with already...just like her Mama. I am so glad you fought. I am so glad your OB listened. I am so glad she is here and that she is alive.

Shannon Vaccaro said... [Reply to comment]

Brandy-I've been following your blog for quite some time and don't think I've ever commented. But, I am so grateful that you were able to bring home your third child in your arms. Your OB sounds like she was amazing, I'm very thankful you had her. It's crazy the difference a great OB can make. I look forward to hearing more about Andrew, Benjamin and Claire.

Much Love,
Shannon Vaccaro

Emily said... [Reply to comment]

Congratulations! So glad to hear that you have Claire safe and sound in your arms. Hugs to you and the family.

Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

She looks so delicate and beautiful. Like sme sort of magical, perfect baby.

Love the picture of you and her. You look amazing.

I'm amazed by your story, her story. So thankful you are here on the other side of her birth, with her alive and home, to tell us about it

Nic Grillo said... [Reply to comment]

I am so very glad that you and Claire are healthy and home! Beautiful little girl! Congratulations to you and Elliott!

Kim Migdoll said... [Reply to comment]

Oh Brandy, she's alive and well, she's home, and she's beautiful!

I am thrilled to read that your sweet Claire is a fighter already and that your lovely family are all safe and sound at home now. Well done for being so in tune with your body, and advocating for your daughter before she was even born - Mama lionness indeed! So glad that your OB was amazing, and just follwed her gut instinct to admit you. Phew! All's well that ends well.

That photo of you holding Claire at the end of the blog, is too beautiful. There is a look in your eyes that is priceless. It made me cry...and we've never even met. I'm sure dear Benjamin is taking this all in, and trying to understand how to live life upside down for a while ;) Bless him!

Enjoy your precious moments with your baby girl. xxx

Joanna R. said... [Reply to comment]

Congrats on the successful birth of your beautiful daughter!

I was diagnosed with cholestasis with both of my pregnancies. My sons were delivered at 38 and 36 weeks with NICU stays.
There is a lot of great information out there and there has been a wonderful Facebook page set up

I would love to speak with you about spreading awareness.

Enjoy your new bundle of joy!


My New Normal said... [Reply to comment]

Why do things the easy way when you can do them the super scary, high risk, lots of drama way?? That's what I always say. :)

Oh my god, what a crazy amount of hurdles you have had to jump through and crawl under in order to have your beautiful family. I am so pleased that you have your sweet little girl in your arms now. You deserve it for sure.

Danielle said... [Reply to comment]

She's amazing :) Holding her moves so many emotions in me... gratefulness, excitement, thankfulness... she's so blessed to have an amazing family that moved heaven and earth for her to get here. Thank you for sharing her!! <3
PS. As a disclaimer to Big Brother's Sister's Birthday Breakfast... Benjamin's mommy told me to take him to DD :D

Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

She is amazing! You are amazing! You are all amazing! I am so, so grateful that she is here, safe and sound. Can't wait to see more pics of her!

katie illingworth said... [Reply to comment]

Wow, Brandy. So glad she is here safe. I can't believe that story. We share crazy birth stories. Need to add mine soon since Lucy is almost 7 months old!