"For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Part II...coming home.

As with most of my "good intentions" lately, things just don't get done when I plan for them to...hence the delay on part two. Regardless of my excuses, here it is :)....

We arrived to our apartment to my parents and my brother, sis-in-law, and their two girls- Kylie Jo (2) & Lila (4 months then). We pulled up to find them waiting for us on the balcony and cheering us on- an awesome and sweet homecoming. My dad and my brother came down to help me up the three flights of stairs to our apartment (at this time I am wondering why we chose the 3rd floor!). They were prepared to carry me but I was determined to do it- it was something I wanted to prove to myself. So with my dad in front of me and Jake behind me we slowly made the climb to the top to hugs all around. It brings me to tears just thinking about it because instead of coming home to no one- we were surrounded by family and that's exactly what we needed after the week we had just had. I needed a distraction from the excruciating pain and the fears that loomed ahead. It was so fun to introduce our daughter to her Aunt Jen and Uncle Jake and her cousins. It's so fun to watch your family love on your child- there's something so beautiful about it.

My sister-in-law, Jen, was a complete lifesaver. She is right in the middle of raising babies so she knew exactly what to do. She sterilized, washed, organized, etc all of our things and Jake helped set up a lot of the baby gear we never got the chance to set up before Gracie arrived. When it came to giving Gracie her first bath- we relied heavily on Jen, to say the least, haha....Seth had just taken Gracie out of the baby bath tub and wrapped her in a towel when she decided to go to the bathroom- we just looked at each other like "Uhh...what do we do?" Seth looks at Jen and says, "Um, what would you do in this situation?" hahaha thank goodness for her help- we truly would have been a mess (or even more of one) :).

The Texans and my dad stayed until Sunday morning and then had to go home but my mom was able to stay for a whole week! That woman was incredible and literally did everything. Cleaned, cooked, organized, shopped, held Gracie, everything. We literally wouldn't have made it without her help. At this point I was in so much pain at my incision site and my abdominal muscles and breastfeeding was HORRIBLE. I just figured all this was normal- I didn't know what post-c section pain was supposed to feel like.

I DREADED going to sleep at night because to lay flat would just put me in tears of pain. I would start to get really anxious when it got closer to bedtime. It hurt SO bad to lay down and SO bad to get up or even turn. Plus I had to go to the bathroom all the time because my body was getting rid of excess fluids so Seth would have to come around and pretty much lift me out of bed. We were at such a desperate state that we decided the next day we were going to buy a recliner that I could sleep in because I couldn't bare it anymore. We didn't budget for that or really have the room for it in our apartment, but desperate times call for desperate measures. That next day- the day we were going to buy a recliner- our bible study leaders were over and we had mentioned to them how painful it was for me to lay flat. They said they had a recliner they would love if we borrowed- 20 minutes later it was set up in our bedroom- what a gift. Truly- for the first time since being home I didn't dread sleeping as much and was actually able to find a comfortable position!!

My dad came back to pick up my mom that next weekend. I wasn't ready for her to go and to be "on our own". Of course we both bawled. Like mother like daughter :).

Seth's parents were originally not planning to come for another week after my mom left which would have meant we would have been on our own for a week. We called them and asked them to come ASAP and thankfully they didn't hesitate or we might have begged them :). They arrived the day after my parents left, leaving us alone for only a half a day...we could manage that. In the time between my parents leaving and Seth's arriving, we made an appointment with the lactation consultant because I. could. hardly. stand. it. anymore. I knew it was "supposed to be painful" and it was "supposed to take time" but I was crying every time she ate. I wanted sooo badly to keep nursing her but I knew the only way I could was if I got some help because MANY times in the middle of the night I would just cry to Seth "I'm done, I'm not going to do this anymore, I can't handle it!". We found out at the appointment that Gracie had thrush and I had a yeast infection so we were just passing it back and forth. With all the antibiotics I was on in the hospital- it was no wonder this happened. She prescribed something for me and something for her. We left and I felt almost (almost) giddy with hope that it was going to stop hurting! (Little did I know then how persistent stinkin yeast infections are!).

Seth's parents arrived that afternoon and we were SO ready for their help! They were awesome and helped a ton as well as loved Gracie when we needed a nap or a break!

I was feeling miserable. I was in so much pain I almost felt numb to any kind of connection with Gracie. It hurt my heart so much to feel so disconnected from my baby, but it was all I could do to bear with the pain. And oddly, the pain was growing increasingly worse every day. In my mind I reasoned that this must be nerve endings reconnecting or "normal" post surgical pain since they did cut through my entire abdomen. Eventually I texted a couple friends who had c-sections and asked what their pain experience was like. I was looking for hope that this pain was normal but in the back of my mind I was terrified of something being wrong (the nurse in me was running to every terribly possible scenario). I wondered if it might be infected...I have seen tons of infected wounds as a nurse but it's COMPLETELY different when you're the patient. First of all, it was hard to even see my incision because my baby belly was in the way and secondly, it did look red- but I figured it was supposed to because the skin was pretty irritated from staples and steri strips.

That Monday I called the Dr's office because I needed to know if something was wrong. I talked to the nurse- she said it was going to be really painful and probably red. So I went with that. Maybe I was just over thinking it, maybe this was completely normal to feel pain 10/10. I felt slight relief after talking to her, thinking, "Okay this is normal, nothing is wrong, I just need to survive until this pain is gone". Seth's parents had to get back to IL that day- so we had to say goodbye- it was sooo hard. I dreaded it- we wanted them to stay but we knew we had to eventually figure out how to do life on our own. We just didn't feel ready yet because I was basically stuck to a chair all day and that left Seth doing everything else.

The next morning was worse than any. I was in SO much pain, literally unbearable pain. I didn't know what to do. I was taking pain meds as soon as I could- Seth was watching the clock like a hawk and bringing me pain meds on the hour. I was exhausted. It was painful for me to stand for more than 2 minutes, I couldn't. I had to sit to do anything- and even that hurt. There was no comfortable position- it all hurt. I just kept telling myself "This is normal, just make it through, just survive".

The breaking point came that morning when I tried to get up to go to the bathroom and bawled the whole way there. On the way back (this is literally a 20 foot trip) I maybe made it 5 feet and was pierced with unbearable pain, I couldn't even breathe. I tried yelling for Seth to help but was breathless and couldn't. Thankfully he saw me and came running and helped me sit down. I just sat and cried. and cried. I was miserable and it was only getting worse. I looked him in the eye and I said "This is not normal anymore, something is wrong". I couldn't even call the doctor, I was a mess.

Seth called the Dr and they told us to come down to be evaluated. Traveling down the stairs of our apartment and climbing into the car was TORTURE. More tears. On the way Seth called to see if they had a wheelchair we could use because we were afraid I wouldn't be able to make it by walking. The receptionist said they didn't have one but if I was in that much pain I should go to the ER. I told Seth, "I'm not going to the ER, we are going to make it up there, I want to see my doctor". So we made the veeeeery slow trip in and up to the 7th floor where my Dr's office was. They took me back and tried to have me lay back on the exam table but I pretty much screamed in excruciating pain after moving back an inch. I started sweating and crying- it hurt so bad. The nurse practitioner took one look at my incision and said "Oh my, honey- this is not normal". Relief and fear flooded me at once- relief because it was confirmation this pain was as bad as I felt it was and fear because what in the world did that mean then??

My Dr came in and took a look and told me I had cellulitis at the incision site. She was concerned there might be something wrong underneath the incision and was debating whether to send me straight to the ER for a CT scan or if it would  be safe to wait until the next morning. In her compassion, she said we could wait until the next morning ONLY IF I checked my temp frequently and if there was ANY sign of a fever I would go straight to the ER, no questions asked. We were sent home with more antibiotics, stronger pain meds, and told to come back in 2 days to be re-checked, as well as get the stat CT scan the next am. We called Teena, our doula, and asked her to be on call to come help us in the middle of the night if I spiked a temp. No fever that night- so no midnight ER trip- thankfully.

At this point I would have almost done anything to make the pain stop. I hated the idea of taking stronger pain meds (really strong meds) because I didn't want Gracie to be any more affected- the poor child had been basically drugged her whole life because of me living on pain meds. Thankfully the antibiotic started to help ease the pain so I didn't have to take the strong ones.

The next morning we got ready and headed to the hospital for my CT scan. We thought it would be a quick in and out, but it turned into an over 3 hour ordeal. Normally this might not be a huge deal in the medical perspective of things, but when you're in intense pain, have a newborn, are sleep deprived, and are trying to figure out breastfeeding- it's an emotional disaster. They took us back to a tiny little waiting area and told us it should just be a few minutes. The few minutes turned into the first hour and then into the second hour and then into the third hour. We had been on the phone with my lactation consultant asking if this contrast dye was safe to have while nursing. The IV dye was iffy and originally they weren't going to use that- they just made me drink a nasty oral contrast dye instead, but because of the loong delay I ended up having the IV contrast. To a normal, emotionally stable person this may not have been a huge deal, but I feel apart because I was so tired of Gracie being impacted by all these drugs in her little tiny body. I felt like I had no control over what happened anymore.

The next morning we are a getting ready an hour before my re-check and I notice my incision is oozing on one end. uh-oh. We arrived at the Dr's office and sure enough part of the incision site opened up and to spare the details she drained quite a bit of infection junk (not medically-terminologically correct). She swabbed the site for a culture to be sent off and basically gave Seth a 411 on wound changes because for the foreseeable future we had to do a wound change twice a day. It was terrible. He had to clean and pack my wound with idoaform twice a day (I've done this tons and tons of times to patients but I've never been the one receiving the treatment and now I have a lot more compassion on my them!). We then were told we need to come back every week until this was closed and healed- we saw the doctor more at this time than we did when I was pregnant.

The week was exhausting. We had been on our own for three days and each of those days we spent at the doctor's office for lengthy appointments- about 3 hours each time. We just couldn't keep up- it completely drained me to get out of house to those appointments. The rest of the day I had zero energy, but yet life kept piling up. I'd sit there and watch Seth, in his exhaustion, try to get things done and take care of us and I watched our lives getting buried by the defeating game of "catch up".

It didn't help that in 4 days was Christmas and we were by ourselves. I would cry to Seth and tell him it just didn't "feel" like Christmas and we tried coming up with ideas to help...like driving to see Christmas lights or making sugar cookies- but we couldn't do any of them because it took too much energy and I hurt too much. I felt depressed. All I could do was just sit in that chair hour after hour and day after day. I wanted to go to the store or look at lights or even just make a stinkin batch of cutout cookies- but I just couldn't. I tried so hard to have a better attitude- thinking things like "wow, isn't it amazing we have a baby for Christmas?!" and "how special is it going to be just the three of us for our first Christmas?!" but the truth was we were both weary, tired, and pretty miserable. I couldn't shake it, I couldn't feel happy and I wanted to feel happy so badly at Christmas. Maybe I put too much weight on it- but it's where I was- I wanted something to feel good- to be fun and not hard. 

That Friday we had gotten into an argument- we were both frazzled and exhausted and our wires were short. My hormones were raging and I cried at anything and everything. Seth was run out of emotions. My overflowing bucket of emotions meets his empty bucket of emotions= sandpaper. He went into the room to take a nap so he could get some strength and I sat out there and cried because I didn't know how to stop. When he came out we just sat there and I said "I want so badly for this Christmas to feel special, but I just can't make it happen"...he said the same thing. After a few moments an idea dawned on both of us at the same time that we had never entertained. Seth looked at me and said "What if we went to IL for Christmas?" I looked at him and said, "I was just thinking the same thing". We weighed back and forth and back and forth...were we crazy? was it feasible? could we do it? did I feel up for it? how would Gracie do for that long in a car? how would I nurse in a car? We called our parents and we made the crazy, new-parent-have-no-common-sense-left decision to go. This was about 10pm on Friday night...we got up Saturday morning, packed, and left Little Rock around noon. We didn't arrive in IL until 1:30am- what was normally a 9 hour drive took a lot longer with a newborn- but we made it. The week was just what we needed- a break from all that was hard and overwhelming to us on our own- yes it was still hard and would have been no matter where we were- but it was the distraction we needed to give us strength to push forward when we got home.

The way home was so hard but yet a sense of "okay we got this" starting building. We started to reach that place where we felt "ready" to figure out life on our own. We were still nervous since I really couldn't bend over to pick up Gracie yet and Seth was supposed to go to work that week, but we felt a glimmer of hope. Things were starting to come together- I was slowly regaining strength, our emotional tanks were filled from being with family, I had just taken my last antibiotic and that meant no more antibiotics for Gracie and hopefully the yeast infection with nursing would clear up soon! We were literally talking about this on the way home when the nurse from my OB's office called. I wasn't ready for what she said, "Miss Angela, we received the culture back from your wound and it looks like the antibiotic you have been taking is resistant to the bacteria, we need to prescribe you Cipro twice a day for 7 days". Immediately tears filled my eyes and I barely mumbled, "Are you sure? Is this medicine safe with breastfeeding?" She told me it was "iffy" and that we could choose to pump and bottle feed. I barely muttered "okay thanks, bye" and started sobbing. I cried, "No, I can't do this, I won't do this, I don't have any more strength to do another complication...I just can't do it anymore!". Why this, now?! I just finished antibiotics and was supposed to be done! We haven't even introduced a bottle yet- what if she gets confused! I am so tired of being on antibiotics! This one has potentially harmful side effects to Gracie! It was a last straw for me...I thought we were on the road to recovery and then another bat was swung...I wanted to move forward, not backwards. We called our pediatrician friend, lactation consultant, chiropractor, and our pediatrician to get all their opinions- I didn't want to take it, but yet I wanted to stop the complications and be done with them.

We decided to wait until Monday when I saw my Dr to take time to think about it and pray about it and let this settle a bit. I went back and forth all weekend and started to feel a peace about just taking it. At my Dr appt that Monday, she resonated with my concerns but told me that bacteria that was found on the culture was the same bacteria that had potentially been to blame for all the initial complications with the labor and we just needed to kill it off. If all the serious antibiotics I had been given IV in the hospital didn't kill that off, then she was right, we just needed to rid of it and be done. So started another round.

I continued to have lots of unbearable nursing pain so we went back to the lactation consultant and she had us try some things to fight the resistant yeast infection. I kept telling myself "It has to get better eventually...just don't give up".

Seth went back to work that week and Gracie and I were on our own. We managed to figure it out and make it through our days imperfectly, but we survived :). Things are now much much much better...the pain is just "normal" post surgical tenderness now, nursing is getting much more tolerable, and I am getting more strength and energy back. Those first six weeks were a whirlwind and completely draining.

To be completely candid and honest- I struggle(d) with depression, anger & questioning towards God, numbness toward my new baby, incredible neediness towards my husband, complete and utter exhaustion like I never knew possible- I felt like I was walking in a fog just surviving most days, and so much pain- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It was a six weeks I had not been prepared for- I felt like we were just hit down and the jabs just kept coming. It was hard. There is no bow to tie it up in. I didn't want to say "It could've been worse" because yes, it could have, but what I was experiencing felt like more than I could handle and it was worse enough. I've had to wrestle with God. I've cried out to Him and asked for Him to comfort me or speak to me and have been met with silence. It is hard to not feel God when you need to feel Him. This is when you're supposed to lean on Truth and not feelings- but that is hard to do when your ability to cope and think logically has been corrupted by hormones and exhaustion. I doubted Him- that He really even cared, even at times if He was real.

One day when I was trying to figure out my faith and what it all meant...it hit me- I don't know how to be me apart from God- He is part of me, He makes up who I am...I am nothing without Him...I'm not me without Him. So God has slowly been healing my heart and meeting me- telling me that He is there. I still don't understand why He doesn't answer when I call to Him at times or why He allows life to be so stinkin hard sometimes, but that is when it comes to the bare basics of just resting in God and letting Him navigate the swirling waves of doubt, confusion, hurt and pain.

I know a few things...I am completely amazed now by my baby girl and am amazed at the love I have for her...it's incredible. Having a baby is straining on a marriage and it takes intentionality, patience, and looooots of grace, and forgiveness to make it. I have an incredibly patient God who isn't afraid of my doubts and my anger and my emotions.

That's my story- nitty, gritty and all. Thanks for walking the journey with us. Thanks for your love, your prayers and your patience as it has taken us a while to respond to texts/calls/emails, write thank yous, post pictures, etc. I'm learning again what a gift the body of Christ is
and how valuable having true community is.

Seth reminded me of a song the other day that I used to love, called Shelter by Jars of Clay. Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcgj-Jbl2RY

Here's a few pictures for fun:


                                                                   Our first sunday going to church!

                                                         haha, I just love her chubby cheeks!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The never-ending birth story- part I, the hospital.

How do you describe the experience of having a child in a blogpost. The past month has felt like a year and yet a second all at the same time. How did we go from a couple to a family in a matter of minutes? I decided to write my birth story down so I would not forget the details someday, so forgive the length, but I wrote it more for my memory :).

The short version:

On Monday, Dec 3rd, 2012 we had an emergency c-section and welcomed our sweet baby Grace Mae Braker into the world. Words can't describe the emotions I/we felt as they held Gracie over the operating room drape and we got to see her for the first time. Those hands were the hands I felt in my womb and that little bottom was the one that would poke out my stomach so hard I thought she was going to break through at times. She was breathing her first air and she was officially here. The days and nights to follow were really difficult as complications arose with me (Ang) but God is faithful and is healing me day by day.

The loooooooong version:

It was supposed to be a normal Monday, just like any other. I would wake up, do a few things and go to bible study. I would come home from bible study and start on our "last minute to-do list before Gracie came"....which we thought was at least a week or two away at this point. I was going to clean the house, run errands, pack my hospital bag, Christmas shop, etc. Seth was going to call for a pediatrician, send our Christmas cards, etc. But the day did not go as planned...at all. I woke up- normal. Usually at this point I would start to feel Gracie move, but didn't feel anything. So I tried to eat some breakfast because that usually would get her moving. Nothing. I tried doing my bible study and getting my mind off of the looming fears of something being wrong but with all that was in me I could NOT concentrate. I texted Seth at this point and told him I wasn't feeling Gracie move at all. I tried lying on my left side and all the things they tell you to do if you don't feel your baby move. Nothing. We decided to call the Dr and after leaving a message and calling back again they asked if we could come in "right now". By then Seth was home from work and we had called my doula. I was drinking sprite and trying to get her to move, but still nothing. I was a wreck, I was so scared that something was wrong, so wrong that it may not be fixable. I couldn't understand, though, she was moving like crazy when we went to bed- what happened?! I couldn't stop the tears. I was so scared. So we left for the Dr's office fully expecting to return home later either way. The laundry was on the floor, dishes were dirty, bags not even packed yet for the hospital.

We got to the office and they hooked me up to an external monitor to measure her heart rate. I can't explain the feeling of relief that rushed over me when I heard that tiny heart beat. I was convinced deep down in my heart that something had happened overnight and she wasn't alive anymore. I was hooked up for about 40 minutes and the Dr came in off and on to check the readings. She was concerned because Gracie wasn't moving or responding to any stimuli. It was not normal for this girl at all- she was always active. My Dr sent us to labor and delivery to be monitored for longer and to have an ultrasound. As we were walking into the hospital we commented to each other that this was a good "test run" to see how to get to the labor and delivery unit so we would be prepared for when that time came (little did we know then). We arrived & were checked into the outpatient triage and hooked up to the monitor again. Our nurse was awesome. She helped ease the fear in the air with her sweet spirit and easy going personality. I was given a button that I was to press if I felt Gracie move. Our doula arrived shortly after we were checked in and helped to pass the time processing and talking and helping us laugh a little bit. But truthfully we were all nervous- why wasn't she moving? The ultrasound tech came to do an ultrasound and said everything looks good, she just isn't moving for some reason. She said sometimes babies just go into a really deep sleep before labor begins. They tried every trick in the book- shaking my stomach, using a loud vibrator on my stomach, agitating her, poking her, etc and we got maaaaybe a couple quick movements from her....but nothing on her own. However after hearing that everything looked good on the ultrasound (meaning nothing looked wrong with the cord, etc) and after being there for 3+ hours we figured the Dr would send us home that evening. We had no idea what was coming our way when the nurse came in the room and told me I had a phone call from my Dr.

I answered the phone and she told me she was really concerned. She said it wasn't normal for Gracie to have no spontaneous movements on her own all day. She said there was no variability to her heart rate. Also the monitoring was picking up my contractions I was having. They were mild and about 6 minutes apart, but after most of them Gracie would have a late deceleration (meaning her heart rate would drop after I had a contraction). Dr said she was very concerned because these were just mild contractions and Gracie was not tolerating them well at all. If I went into full blown labor or was induced, chances were pretty positive Gracie would not do well and we would have to have a stat C-section. When she said these next words I felt like I went numb and my body went into shock..."Angela, we need to do a C-Section now, I'm on my way over and anesthesia is on their way to get you hooked up". By the tears on my face and my barely audible words, Seth & Teena knew it wasn't the good news we were hoping for. I hung up, told them what she had said and just cried. How could this be happening? Gracie had just turned head down a week before and we were getting all ready for a natural labor. She wasn't supposed to come this soon, she wasn't even 37 weeks yet. I'm not ready for this yet- I needed at least a few days to get ready- even just mentally. I wanted to be anywhere but in that moment. I asked the doctor several times "Are you sure this is the only option?" and the answer was always yes- we could not wait any longer- something was clearly wrong and we needed to get that baby out. Such mixed emotions- I mean yes, I wanted gracie to be safe with everything in me. I was terrified of a C-section. I didn't have time to tell anyone we are about to have a baby. I wanted to talk to my parents but anesthesia was on the way. Thousands of fears and thoughts flooded my mind and I once again couldn't stop the tears.

Seth made a comment that took me out of my reeling thoughts. He said, with tears in his eyes, "Baby, in less than an hour we will be holding our baby girl in our arms". I couldn't even fathom the reality of that. I was about to be a full blown mother in less than an hour and my husband was about to be a dad. Were we ready for this?!

Soon the anesthesiologist was in the room explaining the epidural to me and the staff began to prep me for the OR. I had a brief couple minutes where I was able to call my mom really quickly and hear her voice- I needed that. Before I knew it they were wheeling me down the hall to the OR to set up the epidural & prep for surgery. They told me Seth & Teena wouldn't be able to come back until we were all set up. To be honest, I was terrified to get an epidural. I know millions of women get them, but it's always been a huge fear of mine to have one. The epidural didn't feel terrible but it didn't feel great either...it was just so weird. Before I knew it my legs and abdomen were totally lifeless & heavy.

They started working quickly then. Setting up sterile field, doing supply count, etc. Seth and Teena came in- both covered in surgical gear- and sat next to me. Then my doctor came in and before I knew it the surgery had begun. I kept waiting for them to tell me they were going to make the cut but instead all I felt was INTENSE pushing/pulling on my abdomen. I kept thinking "I thought they gave me an epidural, why does this hurt SO badly?!". I honestly didn't think I was going to make it- it hurt SO bad and it felt like my whole abdomen had been run over 50 times by a semi truck. I vaguely remember hearing "suction" "quick" and then sensing they were working rather quickly to get this baby out...and in what seemed like years to me (but was most likely minutes in reality) I heard the cry. It was wet- as if her mouth was congested, but it was full and vibrant and it meant that my baby girl was here! My doctor said "Okay! ready to see her!?" and in a moment held our daughter over the drape for our first look- to anyone else she might have looked blue, bloody, and kinda weird, but to me she was so beautiful. It was sooo surreal.

Seth and I took one look at her and we both started bawling. I love this moment. So raw, so real, so intense. He just held his head to mine and our tears mixed together as we just bawled at what just happened. The nurse brought Gracie over to us and placed her in Seth's arms for the first time. The love on his face was beautiful. He was oozing with joy and awe at this tiny little 7lbs5oz baby girl. I loved watching him. Then it was my turn. Thankfully I could still move my arms so they placed her in my arms. She was a real little person, and she was part of me! This was the little one who kicked me in the middle of the night and who's hiccups I would feel. It was just so unreal - I had a hard time convincing myself that this was MY baby.

We moved back to our labor and delivery room as a family of 3. We were exhausted, on an emotional rush, scared, excited, overwhelmed thankful, and shocked. A. We did not think we were going to have a baby for another few weeks. B. I did NOT want a c-section, let alone an emergency c-section. C. All of a sudden there is this little baby in my arms that is completely dependent on us for everything.

They soon moved us to our post partum room and we began to get settled when the next problem happened...the nurse took my temp and it was 103. Surely that couldn't be right, I didn't feel bad- well I didn't really know what I was supposed to be feeling after abdominal surgery and an epidural, but I didn't think I felt bad, not that bad anyways. The nurse grabbed a different thermometer just to make sure, but it read the same thing. They told me not to nurse while I had such a high fever and they received tons of orders from my Dr, drew lots of blood, gave me lots of acetaminophen. It was really frightning to have such a high temp and not know why. Then it hit and I really started not feeling well- pain, aches, exhaustion all hitting at once. They took my temp at least once every hour, twice sometimes. We maaaybe averaged 20 minutes of sleep that night, maybe.

They couldn't figure out why my temp was so high- it stayed high all night and into the next day. It wasn't until after they removed my epidural that the fever started declining= so we all assumed that it was some type of reaction to the medication from the epidural. Once the fever started going down, we tried to get into the groove of nursing and taking care of a new baby. I was in soo much pain and taking pain killers around the clock- which is hard for me because I usually try not taking medicine- but you literally have no choice- you won't make it without some help.

I decided I neeeeeded a shower. This also was my first time getting up since before surgery. I had no idea how much it would hurt to stand up. Teena, my nurse, and my cna all gathered round and helped me stand. It. was. terrible. I had tears streaming down my face as I managed to hunch-over-stand-up. I took one step and started bawling and had to stop- I kept telling myself "It's just a few more steps to the bathroom and then I can sit." We made it to the shower and during the shower I began to feel faint. I know when I am going to faint and this was one of those times- I told Teena and my nurse "I'm going to faint" and to spare the details- I fainted, but no harm done.

That night we were exhausted and so excited to get some sleep. The past two days had been a total whirlwind and we were running on adrenaline. We had just layed down to go to bed (me on my hospital bed and seth on his oh-so-comfy-dad-sofa/bed-thing) and seth had been out maybe 10 minutes when I woke him up saying that I did not feel good and needed him to call the nurse. So he called the nurse and a few moments later I told him I was going to get sick and did not feel good AT ALL and he needed to get the nurse in this room now.

The next few hours were a blur. After we called the nurse she came in the room, assessed me and then called in a few others. All of a sudden there were tons of people in our room. They called the Rapid Response Team because my blood pressure was so low and my pulse was so high. I was in and out of it and only remember certain things. I remember they took Gracie to the nursery at some point. They drew tons of blood, took a chest xray, and rattled off things you don't want to hear when you are the patient. I remember that whenever I would come to again, seth was right by my side holding my hand and telling me it was okay and I was doing great. I would just nod and go to sleep again. I was crashing and they didn't know why, I didn't know why, and my poor husband didn't know why. They told us I had a critical magnesium level and my platelets were low & I might need blood. They said were going to move me to the ICU.  On the way to the ICU they did a stat abdominal CT scan to check for bleeding or other problems.

When we arrived at the ICU they told Seth he needed to stay out of the room while they got me settled. That man had been my rock and the last thing I wanted was to go to the INTENSIVE CARE UNIT by myself. I didn't want to be strong anymore, I wanted to have him there. It was so weird being on this side of things. I've been the nurse in the ICU, I've been the one to hook up the patient, take their vitals, draw their blood, give their meds....but never before had I been the patient. It's a whole lot different on this side of things.

Finally, after what seemed hours (it was really only a half hour), they let Seth back in. The moment I saw him I fell apart. His eyes were red and swollen and his face was tear stained. He had been so strong through all of this, I hadn't seem him cry yet. But the moment I saw those tears in his eyes, I knew things were not good. We just hugged for a while and cried. We were both so scared- we didn't know what was going on and what was going to happen. No one knew. Everyone kept telling us they didn't know but they didn't like what they saw. I remember looking at the monitor and seeing that my resting heart rate wouldn't fall below 120bpm, they set the alarm to go off it it went about 140- which it often did. What was happening?! No one had an answer but they just kept testing- more xrays, ct scans, blood draws. All of this and my new little girl was on a completely different floor in a nursery without us. To be honest, I felt numb- how was I supposed to feel excited about a new baby when I felt terrible and didn't have a clue what was happening to my body.

(On a side note- our amazing doula, Teena, drove up to the hospital that night and spent the night in our post partum room just so she could be there for us, pray for us, and be near to Gracie. She was a rock for us!)

All night they would come in, give me meds, change my IV antibiotics around the clock, and bolus me with some more fluids. The next morning they called an Infectious disease Dr on my case to see if she could offer another perspective since my WBC count was really high. She ran some more blood work and added a couple more antibiotics (I was on a continuous cycle of 4 different antibiotics- to hopefully kill off whatever this problem was). We were hopeful she would have some answers for us as to why this was happening- or at least WHAT was happening.

My nurse that day was awesome- even though she had other patients, she took me down to the nursery twice so I could see Gracie and try to nurse her. I needed that- to be able to hold my little girl that I barely even knew yet. And my amazing nurses on post partum came and visited me in the ICU to give me reports on how Gracie was doing- these women were the best nurses I could have ever imagined.

They did some more testing that day- to see if I had a pulmonary embolism or blood clot- thankfully I did not. By late that afternoon I was moved back to my post partum room!! We still didn't know what was wrong- but I was stable and my blood work looked much better! Both my doctor and the infectious disease doctor were still stumped by what was causing this, so I continued on the antibiotics around the clock. Teena's husband brought us up some Olive Garden that night and we all just sort of took a deep breath that things were getting "better".

Throughout all of this Gracie was being a little champ- this is where she was dubbed the nickname "champ" from Seth. She had some jaundice that they were watching, but nothing critical. She did look like a little pumpkin for a while, though :).

My parents arrived the next day (Thursday). Before they arrived I decided to take a shower and put real clothes on versus the hospital gown I had been living in. As I attempted to put on my maternity sweatpants and tshirt, I realized they didn't fit- they were too tight. I burst into tears- how could I be bigger after having Gracie than I was before? I was so swollen of fluid and edematous that it hurt to lift my leg from the bed because it was so heavy. Everything hurt- my incision, my body, and now my self esteem was pretty deflated. I didn't think I would ever feel good again, physically or emotionally.

I managed to wipe away my tears before my parents walked in- I wanted to be happy in the moment when I first got to introduce them to Gracie, not sad about how I looked & felt. It was so fun to watch the joy on their faces as they met her- sometimes the things that bring the most joy to me are watching other people be happy- this was one of those moments. It was healing for my heart. We spent the afternoon hanging out in the hospital room and I would off and on cry to them about how hard the week had been. I think by that night we managed to get a little more sleep.

The next day, Friday, the pediatrician came in and discharged Gracie first thing in the morning. What we didn't know was if I would have to stay or if I would get discharged. It pended on blood work and what the doctors were thinking. At this point we still had no idea what caused all the complications, since nothing was growing on the blood cultures. My infectious disease Dr came in and said "To be honest, I don't know what is/was going on in your body, but you are getting better so let's go with that." She said as long as I was getting better I could go home. Later in the afternoon my doctor came in to talk to us and said they aren't positive, but they think the possible cause of everything, or at least most of the problems- was an infection in my amniotic sac called Chorioamnionitis. She said that if we hadn't delivered Gracie when we did, she could have been greatly affected by this- even to the point of brain damage. That made my heart pound in thanks that our girl was perfectly healthy and not affected in any way. They have no idea how it happened- since my membranes never ruptured, but were pretty sure it was the culprit of Gracie not moving and some of the later issues after delivery. But whatever the problem was- they thought antibiotics and other medications had cleared it up and she was letting us go home that night!!

We were soo ready to go home...after 5 days in the hospital we couldn't wait for real food and a real bed. We spent the rest of the day filling out discharge papers, getting my staples removed and steri-strips applied, getting discharge instructions and packing up all of our stuff. We dressed Gracie up in her "going home" outfit and said our goodbyes to the nurses.

[As I mentioned earlier- the nurses and my doctor were incredible. I could not have asked for better care. They all went above and beyond to make sure we felt cared for and safe. I am so grateful for all they did and we truly felt like we had made friends with them by the time we left, after having the same couple nurses a few days and scaring them with fainting and a trip to the ICU- we became really close, really quickly :).]

It was surreal- leaving with a baby- when 5 days earlier we just came in for a "simple check up". As we loaded Gracie into our car and headed home, we just looked at each other in disbelief & complete thankfulness that we had a HEALTHY baby- OUR baby= in the backseat. But we also looked at each other with a new depth and love- because those 5 days strengthened our relationship at it's core.

I'll write PART TWO- Coming Home- next.

Here's a few pictures from the week:
               Right after finding out we are having an emergency c-section & right before taking me to the OR to get my epidural

                                                      Awesome husband and awesome doula, Teena!

                                                         Getting to talk to my mom before surgery!

                                                                Our first look at her!!

                                                   Us bawling at the reality of what just happened!

                                            A dad's first moment with his girl

                                                          Our first family photo

                                                                 I love her sweet little eyes here

                                                 Time with my girl- this was the evening before going to the ICU

                              She was always posed like this in the ultrasounds and still does it now :)

                               One of my favorite pictures- the emotion in his eyes captures the love he has for his girl!
                                                       Her going home outfit, she was such a peanut!

                                                            Going home with our baby!

Friday, January 4, 2013

one month old.

I am still working on our "birth story" blog. It looks more like a book than a blog but I want to remember all the details someday. In the meantime, I can't believe Gracie is already a month old (yesterday on the 3rd). Have I really been a mother for a whole month? Every week I tell seth, smiling, "We've kept her alive for this long" :).

How are we doing? All in all we are doing well and are thankful things are getting better but we are still recovering and facing new complications. I told Seth that I don't feel like wrapping this up in a pretty bow and saying things are great- the truth is, it is hard for several reasons- let alone just being new parents :). We wouldn't trade it for a second but at times it definitely feels like more than I can handle. I feel like the past month has been a complete blur. I have so much to catch up on with thank yous, baby book, house work, christmas stuff, misc projects, phone calls, etc but it seems like nothing gets done anymore- I know it doesn't really matter so much...they will all eventually get done...or not :). Sometimes (alot of times) I feel completely overwhelmed by the smallest things- I think sleep deprevation and post partum hormones could be partially to blame :). Truthfully, we are just taking one day at a time, or one moment at a time sometimes :). BUT it is SO worth it and I can't explain the love I feel for our little girl. She's more than I could ever have imagined.

I'm adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom and am really loving it. I'm learning alot. This has been our first week on our own and all in all it's been going well- granted Seth comes home on lunch breaks this week to check on us :).

I decided to celebrate her being one month old by writing her a letter to express some of the things we've felt about her ....

My sweet Gracie,

I cannot believe you are already 1 month old! I feel like we just brought you home yesterday- and I’ll most likely say the same thing in a year! Time flies so quickly and already I see so many changes in you. I’m having a hard time with you growing so fast- I wish I could just freeze time or at least make it slow down. You have completely won our hearts with every little thing you do. Your dad and I just sit and stare at you and try to soak in all the joy that we can possibly feel. Speaking of that- joy- you’ve introduced us to a type of joy- a depth of joy- that we never knew possible. I have never seen your dad look this way before and he says the same about me. You are our miracle and our precious gift.

You have introduced us to joys we never knew and challenges we didn’t know existed. You’ve made love have new meaning- more meaning- and you have helped us understand Christmas better than ever before. You have utterly and completely turned your dad into mush- I’ve never seen him act the way he does when he holds you- it blesses me so much to see him so full of such pure love for you, little girl.

At night when we say prayers over you, we just sit there, holding you, in disbelief that we get to raise you and love you and teach you. You have no idea how much we love you- in fact it continues to surprise us how much it grows every day. Yes, there are hard moments being parents- exhausting moments and moments where we feel slightly insane, but those truly pale in comparison to the love that continues to grow in our hearts.

I love spending my days with you. Though I literally get nothing done anymore besides feed you and maybe manage a shower every now and then, I love it. I sometimes look around me at what needs done and see the dust thick on the furniture and the dishes piled high and then I see you sitting there and I get completely sidetracked and the dust and the dishes stay standing (though they eventually do need some help J).

We are praying for you and your future- your heart, your soul, your friends, your spouse, etc. It scares me sometimes to think about the things you will face in this life- but always remember Jesus says to take heart because HE has overcome the world.

Girl, it’s only been a month and I already can’t imagine my life without you. What have you done to us?! You’ve turned us both to mush. Keep growing and keep exploring. Daddy calls you our champ- I think the nickname might stick. We love you, Champ!
Here's some pictures of the past month:
                                                                           One week old
                                                                          Two weeks old
                                                                        Three 1/2 weeks old

One month old!!!