Will's early birth story

Posted by  | Thursday, December 6, 2007  at 7:26 PM  
I'm going to do the same as Hollie and post a version of Will's birth story that I wrote when he was about 4 weeks old. I did edit it some. I hope its not too long! There were so many details that I wanted to remember to be able to tell him as a testimony to the Lord's perfect timing in his arrival.

I also have to add some background info. In 2002, I was also diagnosed with a disorder that definitely affected the outcome of my pregnancy. I have lymphedema in my right leg. Basically, my lymph system does not work and I have swelling in my right foot (and sometimes all the way up my leg) all the time. This isn't normal "water retention" and doesn't truly go away. It can be managed with physical therapy and compression hose. The doctors are pretty certain this is genetic because my cousin has the same condition, but only worse. When I was finally diagnosed (after living with a severly swollen right leg for 6 months! Seriously..it looked like Shrek) the doctor briefly mentioned that physically therapy would help to get it back under control and that as long as I was careful I would have no problems until I became pregnant. I assumed that this simply meant my swelling would return with pregnancy, which was not all that alarming.

My OB's knew about my lymphedema and therefore when I started swelling around 25 weeks or so, they weren't very concerned. It continued to get worse though and I now know this was my first symptom of the preeclampsia that I was developing. What I didn't realize was that preeclampsia is a major concern in women that have lymphedema. Because lymphedema is not common, even my OBs were not aware of this increased risk. (You bet they are now!) Here are two pics to show me the day I found out I was pregnant with Will (left) and how bad my swelling got in my face and body (right) about a week before delivering Will. It almost hurt to smile.

Here's the story-written to Will:

My due date was Tuesday, August 1st 2006. My pregnancy had been pretty normal all throughout, up until about the beginning of May, around 27 weeks or so. The only complications being BAD swelling that I attributed to my lymphedema and one trip to labor and delivery after a high blood pressure reading. All was fine and I was sent home.

A month later (at 31 weeks), I went on an overnight fieldtrip with my 6th graders to Charlotte. We went to Carowinds and I did ok despite a nagging cough. (I do remember bringing ziploc baggies with me to use for ice to ease the uncomfortable swelling in my hands and feet!) The day after the trip, I had my first baby shower in Raleigh. My swelling was really bad this day and I could barely wear shoes to the shower (picture above on right)! It was fun although I didn't feel well throughout the day. The weekend ended and I still had a cough. I called the doctor on Monday morning and got an appointment for that afternoon. Your Dad went with me and I’m sure glad he did!

The appointment was with Jill, the nurse practitioner. My blood pressure was quite high this time at about 157/98. She was explaining to me about high blood pressure in pregnancy (and how it can be "normal"…) when she looked back at my chart and saw that there was protein in my urine (a bad thing). This time they sent me straight to the hospital. I was beginning to develop preeclampsia – a dangerous condition that includes high blood pressure, extra swelling and protein in the urine. The cough I had originally gone in for was due to the extra fluid in my body backing up into my lungs!

I stayed in the hospital overnight on Monday June 5th. They did some blood tests, monitored my pressure and took some more urine samples. I also got two steroid shots to mature your lungs. At this point, the doctors told us you were going to come early, it was just a waiting game to see how early. The goal was 34 weeks. They decided that I could return home on bed rest in order to keep my blood pressure down. I left the hospital on Tuesday, June 6th at 32 weeks pregnant.

On Thursday, I went back to the doctor for a non-stress test (to be sure you were ok) and an ultrasound to check you out even more. That was when they discovered that you were measuring a bit small; right at the 10th percentile. They estimated you to weigh about 2.5 pounds. You should have weighed closer to 4lbs at that point. Dr. Henderson called you a “turkey butt” when he realized how small you were. They scheduled me to see a perinatologist the next day to have more ultrasounds (called a biophysical profile) done to check you out. But…my body didn’t wait for that.

That night (Thursday 6/8) at home, I woke up around midnight feeling VERY strange. My whole body felt hot and I was blacking out some. When we took my BP, it was extremely high at 198/115. We called the doctor (Dr. Z) and he first advised us to stay at home for now saying that we already knew my pressure was high, but head to the office the next morning. (Knowing what I know about preeclampsia now – I wouldn’t have even called but gone STRAIGHT to the hospital.) He called us back a few minutes later and said he’d changed his mind and had an uneasy feeling and wanted me to head on to the hospital. We praised the Lord for his willingness to call us the second time! This would be the last time I checked into the hospital before you came!

That night, they monitored my health with pressure checks, blood tests and hooking you up to the fetal monitors. On Friday, I saw the perinatologist at the hospital and he guessed that you weighed around 3 pounds. He said that other than your size, you looked pretty good. The only “test” you didn’t pass during the biophysical profile was practice breathing. Basically this means that you didn’t move your diaphragm muscle the entire time (about 30 minutes) for the ultrasound. I think this could signal to them that you might have difficulties breathing if born at that point. The doctors (H and Z) basically told me it was a waiting game at that point to see whether or not I could return home on bed rest or stay in the hospital on bed rest. They still wanted 34 weeks...

I felt ok through the weekend, but on Sunday night developed a terrible case of heartburn. I barely slept and Monday morning I was in a lot of pain, even threw up because I hurt so bad. We tried Tums and some other heartburn meds, but nothing worked. Your Dad was going to return to work on Monday for a while, but didn’t go in until around 11am because I was feeling so icky. We were still waiting to hear from the doctor at that point. We anticipated them to tell us one of two things - either we were going home on bed rest or staying in the hospital. The Lord had other plans...

Around noon, Dr. H came in (Aunt Lauren was with me) and told me that you were coming! I was SHOCKED. He didn’t like what my pressures were doing and my protein levels had increased as well. After checking my cervix, he said that we could try induction as long as my blood work stayed stable (checking liver function). So, I called your Dad and gave him the shocking news and he quickly returned to the hospital.

Around 3:30pm, we were still waiting to get a move on the induction when Dr. H returned and gave us the news that you were going to be delivered via c-section at 6:30 that evening! Shocked us again! My liver enzyme levels had increased 7 times, indicating that my liver was failing. I had developed a complication called HELLP syndrome that can be very dangerous. This explained all of the “heartburn” pain I was having. It was my swelling liver. At this point, vaginal delivery was not an option. In a whirlwind of preparations that I barely remember, they got me ready for surgery and out you came by 5:46pm!!

I was 32 weeks and 5 days pregnant. The doctors anticipated that you would need some help breathing (because of the biophysical profile that showed no practice breathing), but you did not! You weighed 3lbs, 3ounces and cried when they pulled you out. It was pitiful sounding because you were so small. Technically you had IUGR (Intrauterine growth restriction - meaning you were less than 5th percentile in weight for your gestational age). Dad went with you while they cleaned you up. The surgery went well, but they put me on magnesium sulfate for 24 hours afterwards to prevent seizures from my blood pressure. I wasn’t able to see you anymore that night, and I don’t remember much until Tuesday evening when they finally quit the magnesium sulfate. This drug is seriously the worse medication I have EVER taken. I have never felt so sick in my life. Eventually it caused my pressures to drop too low causing some tense moments in my room with the nurses and doctors. I do know its necessary to prevent post-partum complications (seizures or worse) in women with pre-e.

When they were moving me from one room to the next on Tuesday evening, the nurse said that we could stop by the special care nursery (NICU) and see you. I would even get to hold you for the first time! But, after getting wheeled in there I started feeling lightheaded and was only able to hold you for a minute or so before feeling as though I was going to pass out.

I actually had to call out for a nurse to come and take you because I was afraid of dropping you. (In the pic above, I totally remember feeling about as bad as I look!) I barely made it back to bed before I passed out again. Slowly, over the next 3 days I was able to get to the nursery to see you several times a day.

Your health remained great and your biggest problems were your jaundice, your small size, learning to tolerate feeds and regulating your temperature (all normal preemie things). You had a feeding tube for the first week and a half and had an IV for about the same time. At one point the IV was in your head because you liked to pull it out everywhere else! I was able to start nursing when you reached about 34 weeks adjusted age. You remained in the hospital for 16 days. Dad and I came to visit you every day. Most days, I would come before your 2:30 feeding and nurse you. Dad would come straight from work by your 5:30 feeding where he would give you a bottle or I would nurse again.

We were so blessed by the nurses and doctors at the hospital. Your doctor was Dr. Snyder and she goes to our church. She was a great doctor who took wonderful care of you! The greatest part was how she would just talk to us and give us specific ways to pray for you! She also was quick to point to the Lord when she had no explanation for why your health was SO GOOD. The OB had warned us about "wimpy white boy syndrome" where white males tend to have a rougher time when born premature. You defied this well researched theory! What a testimony to the Lord's timing and perfect plan to provide us with someone like her! Just two weeks ago, she saw you at church and was amazed at how big you have gotten. In fact, when everyone else was saying, “He’s so tiny!” she was saying, “He’s so big!”

End of the story as written to Will...A few more thoughts on my birth experience. First of all, obviously this is not the birth I had envisioned and certainly none of this was included in the birth plan I was in the process of working on. :) BUT, I am so thankful for the ways the Lord protected both Will and myself. I recently heard of a woman who lost her son at around 34 weeks after developing pre-e and HELLP. Because of how quickly and how early in our pregnancy our story unfolded, I did not have the time that I would have liked to be "prepared" for delivery. But I see this as another way the Lord protected my anxious heart. Instead, we had to TRUST the Lord and his perfect timing 100% because we literally knew nothing else to do.

Recovery from my c-section was not nearly as difficult as I feared, partly because I FORCED myself to get around in order to go see Will each day. I did struggle immensely with feelings of guilt for having had to deliver so early and disappointment over not getting the birth (or pregnancy) that I had imagined. Leaving Will in the hospital when I was discharged was without a doubt, one of the hardest days of my life! Every night before going to sleep, Jacob and I would call the NICU to check on Will and get a weight update. For the first week or so at home, this was hard for me to do and I almost always had Jacob do it. I can remember sitting beside his isolette (the incubator thing) and crying so much in the beginning! I felt so helpless and was humbled every day that I experienced in the NICU.

Despite this complicated birth, we are anxiously anticipating what God has in store for our little girl due in March. I would LOVE a VBAC, but my first prayer is for a BIG, healthy, full term baby. I am currently 24 weeks pregnant. So far at around 22 weeks, my blood pressure was slightly elevated. I take it at home now at least once a day. My swelling has increased some this week, but we're hoping that coolness of the winter will help prevent this from getting as bad (last time I was preggo in the June heat!). The doctors say my risk for developing pre-e again are probably higher than the average 30% that do develop it with subsequent pregnancies, simply because of my lymphedema and early onset with Will (normally pre-e comes much later and is simply managed by delivery of full term baby). The only other complication we are praying about is the complete placenta previa that I had on my ultrasound at 18 weeks. They will check this again at 28 weeks and we are praying that it is resolved then!

Thanks for all the sharing this week! I LOVE talking birth stories. Keep them coming this weekend! Anyone have experience with placenta previa? This one is new to me and I'm definitely fighting the anxiety and worry about this one!!


Hollie said...

Mercy alive girl, you've been THROUGH IT. My word! I had no idea. Praise the Lord for His awesome provision. What a scary story. I was so glued to it, and as I read every word, I couldn't wait to read the next. My heart hurts for you Christina, for I'm sure you were so broken realizing the fact that you couldn't hold and cradle and comfort your baby premie when he needed you most. I just can't imagine. Did you have any trouble bonding with him since you couldn't hold him, didn't have him for a while since he was in NICU, and since you couldn't nurse him right away? What an amazing story of God's protection. I'll be praying for you so much with this pregnancy now that I know your history. Thanks for sharing!

Shannon said...

Oh wow. While reading Will's story I was tearfully thanking Father for taking care of you both.

About the Placenta Previa.... When I was preg with Lilly (my 2 1/2 mo old) I had to go to the ER early on... probably around 16 weeks b/c of a bad stomach virus. While doing an ultrasound, they found that I was placenta previa. But a week later, at my normal ob checkup, my doctor told me that many womem SEEM to have placenta previa that early on, but that as pregnancy goes on, the placenta moves up to the normal place. He said not to worry about it, and he'd check me again around 21 weeks or so. By the time I had that next ultrasound, everything looked great, and I had no further complications. I will pray for a great pregnancy and delivery for you.

Christina said...

(I typed this comment once and blogger lost it...so we'll see if this one works!)

Hollie - Since I had no other birth/bonding experience to compare to...at first I didn't think there was any difference in how I bonded with Will. Looking back though, I think our bonding was somewhat delayed. At first I was definitely reluctant and hesitant to get involved in his care and touch him, etc....this is one thing I noticed about our bonding...BUT Jacob was GREAT at jumping right in the NICU and learning everything and touching Will and so forth. The first few times I went to see Will - he was the one showing me everything and explaining it all to me. I was truly amazed at how well he handled it all and how strong he was! Once I was able to get my hands on him more and nurse him, it didn't take long! There are certainly no ill effects that I know of from our slightly delayed bonding. I wonder what kind of bonding experience Mom's of babies born even earlier (with longer NICU stays) have? Anyone?

That's how it was explained to me too- and MOST stories I have heard from other women is that they were diagnosed with it in the 2nd trimester and by 3rd almost all had resolved. We're hopeful!! So...we get an ultrasound at 28 weeks to check it again.

The Hudgins said...

thanks for sharing your story!
wow. God is so good.
i also developed Pre-e. jordan was born at 36 w 5 days though...so nearly full term. I gained 20 lbs of fluid in the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy, and I have pics that look a lot like yours...I've never felt so horrible in all my life! magnesium sulfate is terrible....but then I look at my boy, as I'm sure you do...and know that it was all worth it and that God was truly watching over us during that experience.
thanks for sharing. i'm so glad that Will is doing so well!

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