Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Special Delivery: Early Edition

People who know me know that the first step I take in facing my emotions is usually writing about them, and about the experience that led to them.  I wrote about my mother's death almost immediately, and about my three miscarriages the weeks they occurred.  But sometimes, life gets in the way and I'm left with little ability to write but lots of time to process.

Like that time I had an emergency c-section a month before my due date.

Yes - if you're a family or friend, you probably already know that little Ronen has already arrived, throwing our whole life into a tizzy quite some time before we were ready to be thrown into said tizzy.  I don't think it's necessary for me to rehash every graphic detail about the arrival of my child, but lots of folks seem to want a bit more of a backstory as to what happened, so, here goes...

Despite all of my best efforts, I'd struggled with high blood pressure for years.  Pregnancy didn't make it better, although, until about a month ago, it was fairly well-controlled with medication.  My OB was carefully monitoring me for pre-eclampsia.  There was a bit of a concern when my third trimester ultrasound showed a healthy but rather small baby.  Granted, both my husband and I are short, but restricted growth could also indicate problems.  I was told I'd be getting a non-stress test twice weekly to monitor the baby's development.  At a subsequent appointment, I asked about bed rest (per my concerned husband's urging).  The doctor's reply was that it would not be necessary, and he left the room to review some test results.  Moments later, he returned and said that I would not be going back to work, but to the hospital instead.  Protein was found in my urine, and that, coupled with my alarmingly high blood pressure, was an indication of pre-eclampsia, the condition that struck my friend Alayna during the birth of her son Isaiah. 

Doctors - good ones - do not mess around with pre-e.  It can be unpredictable and lead to sudden seizures.  Long story short: I drove myself to Mercy Hospital and checked in for further testing.  Ross arrived fairly soon after and the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia was confirmed.  I was surrounded by efficient, caring nurses and doctors and that was a good thing, because we were told that the baby was coming within the next 48 hours.  We were given the option of inducing labor or a c-section.  It was a tough decision, as I had really wanted to avoid surgery, but the idea of putting the baby and myself through up to two additional days of stress and trauma on top of the already scarily high blood pressure I was having...well, that didn't seem right.  We opted for the c-section, and at 4:03 PM on June 11, 2014, Ronen Curtis Godlove entered the world.

My husband was the first to hold him, as the anesthesiologists continued to give my updates in their calm, reassuring voices, but a sudden wave of terror hit me when I heard his birth weight.  He was only four pounds and three ounces.  I panicked.  So tiny!  The best guess of our sonographer was nearly five pounds!  Still, he seemed healthy, and tears rolled down my face when I heard, rather than saw, his first cry.

Family stopped in as I was still hopelessly high on Lord knows what wonderful drugs I was given.  My grandmother held her first great-grandchild, tears in her eyes.  No one really had the words to say on the occasion - after three miscarriages, we were holding a gorgeous little boy in our arms.  So no one said much.  And that was okay.

But things went south quickly.  Ronen's blood sugar levels were dangerously low, and his body temperature wasn't very reassuring.  He was placed into an isolette to warm him up inside our room, but then transferred to the NICU almost immediately.  I don't even recall what my reaction was, other than to soberly nod as the nurse was explaining why they took him away.

In the hospital room that night, while my husband slept fitfully, I scratched myself nearly raw from the morphine - not realizing that I was even doing it.  I slept for minutes at a time, as my vitals, pain level, and incision were checked constantly.  The next day, my husband made his second trip into the NICU to see our son, who was still in the isolette, wires attached to his chest and an IV strapped into his incredibly tiny hand.  

The next nine days were, to be trite, a roller-coaster of emotions.  One hour, his blood sugar was perfect, but the next, it dropped by twenty points.  Although his body temperature regulated fairly quickly, there were other concerns.  He was, after all, technically a month early.  We were told that he may be out as early as the weekend after his birth, but each day brought new challenges.  He was a sleepy baby, and very hard to rouse for his feedings.  He wasn't taking enough formula.  His blood sugar was unpredictable.  All of these things, we were told, were normal for preemies, and we just had to wait things out.  He wasn't losing weight, though, which was encouraging.

Finally, after lots of prayers and what seemed like an eternity, our little man was given the all-clear to come home with us.  Though I'd visited him frequently in the NICU, trying to breastfeed and just get to know him, I could not believe I was taking home this tiny and helpless stranger.  His every need was my responsibility.  I was more overwhelmed, I think than I was nine days earlier, when we learned he was coming out, one way or the other!

So, I now have a thirteen-day-old baby in my house.  He's my baby, though I'm still having a very hard time wrapping my head around that fact.  My husband is utterly enamoured of him and keeps exclaiming that he looks like me (he does).  I'm going through the ups and downs that virtually every new mom experiences: the constant trickle (or flood) of self-doubt...the challenges of feeding a newborn...the sleep deprivation...forgetting to eat (trust me; it's the first time in my life that I've ever actually, truly and genuinely forgotten to eat)...struggling to accept help from friends (it's that awful pride thing that tries to convince new moms to handle everything by themselves)...and trying to have patience with myself as I deal with a new role, a new body, and new fears.

All in all, though, I have to brag - my husband has been pretty much my hero these past few days.  It only seemed fitting that this past Father's Day was his first as a father, even to a son stuck in the hospital!  He has risen with me for most nighttime feedings, has brought me little treats, has encouraged me to drink lots of water to stay hydrated, has tried to keep the house clean, has been as supportive to me as he knows how.  I'm dreading the day he has to return to work!

And what about the cats?  Well, Loki seems terrified of the baby and will only eye him from a very safe distance.  Thor is curious, but not curious enough to really bother him, as long as he still gets his cuddles and pets from his beloved Mommy Cat (he does, though not as frequently).  Freyja still hasn't acknowledged the baby at all yet, but Ross and I did notice a change in her behavior.  Although Thor and Loki had both been left alone for a few days before, when we went on vacation or on weekend trips, Freyja had not.  We think she was terrified of being abandoned, because since we've been home, she has been even clingier than usual.  She jumps into visitors' laps and simply has to be in the room with one of us (usually me).  She is following me into the bedroom and bathroom now, which she only did rarely before.  We're convinced that she was abandoned before, which is why she showed up on our porch to begin with, and she's afraid it will happen again.

Only cure for that is to shower her with kisses and cuddles so she knows she is loved and we're not going anywere!

I've decided that I won't be blogging too much about my baby.  And, on social media, I'm limiting who can see pictures and details about him.  Things are just too unpredictable nowadays, plus I'm worried for his own privacy someday!  I don't know what the internet will be like in ten years, but if Facebook is still around, does he really need to see that I posted pictures of his diaper blowouts or bathtime exploits?  Boy, I'm grateful that my mom never had Myspace...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Multiple Choice

Today, my dad reminded me that I can choose fear or faith.

Not both.

The interesting thing about that statement is that it presents us with a concept that we don't often imagine.  Choosing something that is usually considered an emotion.  But faith, like love and forgiveness, is a decision we make.  A lifestyle.  Not a default reaction.  Not a feeling.

Which do you choose?

This week, I got some less-than-great news at my OB-GYN appointments.  It wasn't bad news; just disappointing.  Although the baby is developing just fine, he's measuring quite small.  I know that technicians can only imperfectly guess about the weight of a fetus, he's currently (barely) tipping the scales at just under 5 pounds, plus he's breech right now.  That, however, isn't my biggest concern - especially since I am only five feet tall and his daddy's on the short side of average, too.  My real challenge is my blood pressure.

Lots of you know that I was diagnosed with hypertension about four years ago.  I saw my PCP and a cardiologist, both of whom determined that my weight at the time, while high, would not have caused the numbers they were seeing.  After exams and bloodwork, the frustrating conclusion was that it was simply "unexplained".  Genetic.  Ugh.  Last year, I worked very hard to change my eating habits, exercise frequently, and reduce my sodium intake.  I was doing about 50 minutes of cardio four or five times a week, and I ended up crossing something off my bucket list that I didn't even know was on it - I ran in Pittsburgh's Great Race!

All in all, I lost a total of about 19 pounds from my curvy but small frame.  I wanted to lose another 10 more, but then (wonderfully!) got pregnant and put that goal aside.  Still, though, my blood pressure was high.  I was deeply frustrated.  I'd followed all the "rules" to reduce it naturally, but my efforts were met with the same ugly numbers every time: 140/100.

I was given medication during my pregnancy to maintain my blood pressure, which has helped thus far - especially given my 4-month stretch of doctor-ordered abstaining from all exercise.  After I was cleared for exercise, I found that I was so short of breath that I could hardly move without my inhaler anyway.  So it was basically a no-go, and I'm not thrilled to say that I've gained around 40 pounds so far.  Everyone insists it's "all belly", but I'm not so sure.  Still, that's another story for another time.

My doctor has been both optimistic and realistic with me.  He had celebrated every little victory with us along the way - hearing the heartbeat, feeling the kicks, passing the glucose test.  Yet he has also gently reminded me that, due to my chronic hypertension, I'd have to be closely monitored the further along I was.  No truer were those words than today, when my non-stress test results apparently disappointed the other doctor in the practice, who ordered two more in the next seven days.  The baby's heart rate is normal, but I guess he's not moving as much as they would like.  

Now, if you compare him to other babies, you're right.  However, since the beginning, he's been on the "lazy" side, if you will.  Unlike many babies, he doesn't keep me up at night kicking.  He actually sleeps at night and seems to wake up around 10 in the morning.  He has some flurries of activity around then, right before lunch, around 2:30, then after dinner.  That's sort of his schedule.  It has been since I felt him kick on Valentine's Day this year!  

My pregnancy hasn't matched up with "the norm" either, though!  The subchorionic hematoma I suffered happens only 10% of the time.  I'm eight months along after three unexplained, consecutive miscarriages.   I didn't break out in acne like most other moms-to-be.  I didn't have much morning sickness at all, and I never threw up once (except for a brief bout with the stomach flu).  So I'm different, I guess it stands to reason that baby might be, too.

Still, we're moving forward with tests for the dreaded but as-yet-unspoken diagnosis of pre-eclampsia hanging over my head.  I'll hear soon enough, as I'm pretty sure the technician at Quest drew enough blood today to keep Nosterafu fed for a week.  If I do have it, my already uber-flexible birth plan will just have to morph yet again.  They will likely have to deliver the baby early for his sake and mine, since pre-E, as it's called, can truly be deadly.  Even if I don't have it, they might want me on bed rest since the baby isn't doing much to impress them right now.   

So I'm left at a crossroads.  As I'm finishing packing up my hospital bags and determining what cute little onesie my baby will prefer to come home in, I can choose faith or fear.

It seems like fear is the more reasonable option.  It makes more sense, after all.  I should be afraid, shouldn't I?  Of an emergency c-section, of my baby winding up in the NICU, of having to leave him behind for testing once I am discharged. 

But fear won't get me through the next month.  It will cripple me, then trip me, then laugh when I can't get back up.  It will stifle my breathing and disturb my sleep and whisper "what if" in my ears a thousand times a day.  It will invite me to play out the worst possible scenarios in my head over and over until I'm convinced they are the unalterable future.

Faith, however, will give me breath each morning - just enough for the day.  Faith asks no more than to allow tomorrow to be tomorrow, and let today be today.  Faith reminds me that God has not abandoned me, that my friends are with me.  That my husband was by my side for all three of our losses, and he is here now.  Faith instructs me to do what I can and put everything else in the hands of my Maker.  And, with a shy smile, faith gently admonishes me that worry adds no years to my life and no strength to my journey.

I choose faith.  It's not a feeling.  It's a decision.  Even if I feel fear, I don't have to choose it.  

I won't let it speak for me.  Or to me.