Our Birth & Nicu Story-long(naturally)
It's been very healing to read all the NICU stories posted here and in the old thread, and it's gone a long way towards making me feel not so alone. I thought I would finally add my story as well.
My pregnancy seemed perfectly healthy all along, and I read everything I could get my hands on, researched and did everything I could to keep everything perfect. DH and I took a Bradley class. I switched providers at 20 weeks to a wonderful CNM who was really dedicated to natural birth. I hired a doula(monotrice actually) with a great reputation and many years of experience. We planned to deliver at a hospital a few towns over with a reputation for respecting mamas. I followed the Brewer diet, took my vitamins, did prenatal yoga, attended my midwife appts religiously, got regular chiropractic adjustments and all those other wonderful natural pregnancy things. DD was an athletic mover the whole time, and her heartbeat sounded good at every appt. I even had a 36week ultrasound (to check size since I was measuring a bit big for a few weeks in a row-was extra fluid), and she looked perfect-est. size was 6lb 4oz then, so we were expecting a big baby, and I was feeling really thankful to have a midwife that wasn't scared of a big baby and really believed in my body's ability to birth.
I worked up until 38weeks 6days, then went on maternity leave. I had been waking up with braxton hicks every night for a couple of weeks that petered out about an hour after I would get up and moving, and I was really ready for some rest. The following Tuesday (39w3d) I woke up with the same, got my morning cereal, checked my email and later realized the contractions had not dissapeared. They weren't very intense, but already less than 4min apart. My mom and grandma had histories of fast labors, so I called my doula & mama to let them know. I got dressed and DH and I went to his chiro appt. Still contracting when i got home, so I told mom, sis & aunt friend to come on over. Since they weren't very intense DH went to work for the morning (his coworkers gave him a baby shower that day too
)I had a couple of hours before anyone got there, and I baked a "Birth Day" cake with a 0 candle on it. My family arrived with some Wendy's for lunch, and DH came home for lunch shortly afterwards. By then the contractions were a little more intense, and getting closer together and longer (every 3min, 45sec long) so I called my doula to head on over to check me. I think she took in the Party atmosphere and expected to find very little, but her dropped a little when she told me I was already a stretchy 6cm. We hung out for a little bit longer, but when I started feeling very quiet and a bit nauseous, we decided to head for the hospital. Got there about 5:00pm and contractions had slowed way down, but I knew that could happen so I just prepared to try to relax once were settled in. They hooked me up to the monitor for the mandatory initial strip and were concerned that the hb was dropping with each contraction. They put the telemetry monitors on me and moved me to a room. We tried alot of different positions to see if it helped her hb. Had some problems with the monitors not picking it up too. Midwife's supervising OB came in to consult with us. Being upright helped a little at first, but when it started dropping again, we decided to break my water to put on an internal monitor to verify what was going on with her.
When the OB broke my water there was no fluid, but lots of brownish green gunk (meconium, but much more than i would have imagined a baby could have). The internal monitor confirmed her distress and we headed to the o/r for a c/s. I remember being insulted that the OB assumed my biggest concern was the loss a natural birth (cause we just do it for the experience, right?
: ) Thanks to the Bradley class I was more than educated enough to know that we were looking a true fetal distress, and while I was definately scared and dissapointed, my natural birth was the least of my worries at the time.
I was still contracting, but no longer measurably progressing by now(had actually dilated backwards-not sure if that was true change or difference in people measuring. with the stress, I might have actually closed some), and going to the o/r and getting my spinal was the first time the contractions really seemed unbearable. state of mind and feeling safe makes such a difference.
They didn't show us the baby when they pulled her out at 7:19pm. She wasn't breathing and was covered in meconium at the time. They reasuringly told us that they just needed to suction her and clean her a bit.
My midwife was great, came into the o/r and held my hand the whole time, which was a big comfort when they called DH over for a peek at the baby while they were working on her. He wasn't gone long, but I felt very alone. She still wasn't breathing when they wheeled me back to our room.
I lost alot of blood, and wasn't entirely coherent as they wheeled me back to my room afterwards. I was shivering uncontrolably from the anesthesia too. We waited, and the minutes turned into hours without any news. Our pastor had been called and told that we had a rough start, and he came to be supportive.
A little before midnight, the neonatologist came in to speak to us. Most of what she said was a blur to me. Apparently I had placental problems, that had limited her nutrition, O2, and decreased the amniotic fluid. No one could ever tell me why though. I remember that her cord was around her neck twice and had been compressed during labor (causing the decels during contractions i think). She had lost weight since the last ultrasound. She only weighed 4lb 10oz. They could barely believe that she had been as active and strong as she had seemed those last few weeks. Her heartrate and movements then had never, ever given us cause to worry.
She had suffered a stroke at some point and had probably been in distress for a while. I remember the words "brain damage". They said if (yes, IF) she made it through the next few hours and days, then she had a good chance of survival, but they couldn't tell the extent of the damage and how it would affect her. They said if she didn't improve quickly she might need to be moved to a bigger city for ECMO. A few minutes later they brought her in for me to see her for first time. I actually didn't see her the day she was born, since this was well after midnight. They were getting ready to transfer her by ambulace to the main hospital NICU across town. She was in an isolette and had so many tubes and wires. Our pastor baptised her through a little port hole in the box, and I got to stroke her hand for a few seconds before they whisked her away.
They tranferred me to the main hospital a little later that night and I saw her again about 3 am. The nurse and Dh helped me out of bed and I fell as well as i could into a wheelchair.
That was when the miracles started. When she arrived in the NICU they put a new tube into her lungs to try to clear some more of the fluid and meconium, and it began clearing immediately. They were able to start turning down the O2 on her ventilator the very next day. She was off the ventilator by saturday when i was discharged and moved to the ronald mcdonald house accross the street. Sunday (Easter Sunday) DH and I got to hold her for the first time. I was having a tough recovery, but I pushed myself to be by her bedside as much as possible. They gave her her first tube feeding that monday. They gave her 1cc of formula for her first tube feeding because the nurse didn't think to check the freezer for my milk.
(I had started pumping breastmilk for her the day after she was born).
In retrospect I'm dissapointed in the way they treated parenting and breastfeeding in our NICU, and in myself for not being courageous enough to question the treatment of my daughter. (there were two great, encouraging, AP style, kangaroo care encouraging nurses, but the rest were very
"old school") We were discouraged from holding her too often (they said it would tire her out). They wanted her to take a bottle before they would let us try breastfeeding.
But they were worried about feeding her a bottle though because she wouldnt suck a pacifier(arrgh!!), so she kept the tube in until the next sunday when my little girl pulled out the tube herself. (Yey!!) The nurse gave her a bottle(at least it was of my milk) and she took it right down. Monday they let us try bfeeding for the first time (not a success) but I was thrilled to hold and cuddle her and feed her the bottle at each feeding time. I was just craving my baby so badly by then!
Then Tuesday (as I was attempting breastfeeding again with another lactation consultant) the doctors came around to make their rounds, and stated that they would take her off her IV fluids, and If she did well, discharge her the next day! I was stunned and had both the nurse and the LC repeat what I had just heard. My little angel was coming home! From not being sure if she would make it, to homecoming in 15 days. We were stunned again and this time in a good way.
We haven't had an easy road since being home, but she gets stronger and more beautiful every day. We follow up with a neurologist regularly, and get regular OT. All the doctors and therapists have been so pleased with her progress. Babies brains are so flexible and resiliant, still forming new connections, that in the future, possibly no one will ever know that she even had a stroke. She has some very mild weakness on her right side, so she has to work a little harder than other babies to meet her milestones, but so far she's done everything on time, or even early! She's been described as socially precocious too!
The biggest issue has been that she never latched on to the breast. Despite more lactation consultants and la leche league help, and sooo many tears at every nursing attempt, I'm still pumping breastmilk and feeding her with a bottle. I try to "bottle nurse" though, and make sure she's held every feeding. I really grieved (and am still grieving) the loss of a nursing relationship with my little girl, but as she's still growing strong on my milk, I'm making peace with it. I also think about it a little less now that she's so much more active. She has the most beautiful little smile, and the prettiest little features. She was so thin and gaunt when she was born and now she's chubby and adorable, she looks like a different baby every time I turn around. Everyone stops us when we're out to tell me what a pretty baby she is. (Can you tell I'm proud? lol)
She's not a great sleeper, and we get lots of advice (CIO, mostly
) to help us get more sleep, but we love co-sleeping and our Ped has been very supportive. He said alot of NICU babies are just very alert and very light sleepers because of the hyper-stimulation in the hospital, and It's definately not anything we're doing as far as "sleep habits". I've started telling everyone who questions her frequent nightwaking that she's advanced and learning to count (1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, LOL) Laughter counters the criticism.
She loves to ride in and sleep in our slings though. We have 4 now! LOL just got a solarveil water sling and dh took her into the pool with him. fun!!
We've also started cloth diapering, and that's turned into our new obsession. She's still tiny, so the CDs poof up her bum to wear some of the cute bigger clothes we have. LOL
Her neurologist had considered taking her off phenobarb since she hadn't had any repeat seizures, but an EEG last week still looked very abnormal, so we're staying on the meds for another 6mos.
It's been quite a roller coaster, but I finally feel like we're settling into our new role as a family, and I'm definately head over heels in love with my daughter.
Thanks to everyone for "listening"
Bridget Ann 3/22/05