At a prompt from Stacey at Is There Any Mommy Out There? I decided to share my birth story. I started typing this twice, but stopped both times because I thought no one else would be interested in reading it. I finally decided to write it down for two reasons. First of all, I realized that I love reading other people’s stories, so – who knows – maybe someone will enjoy mine. But most of all, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the details are already getting fuzzy for me, and it’s only been two years. Somehow, in spite of the utter amazing-ness of Jenna’s arrival, current events and demands are clouding my brain and threatening to cover up a story that I don’t want to forget. That tells me it’s time to write it down. I really like Stacey’s idea of sharing her child’s birth/adoption story with them each year at their birthday. What a great way to celebrate the happy day (and remind them of what you went through – Ha!).
Photo by farleyj
I suppose my story begins when I was 6 months pregnant and started having contractions. (Pull up a chair and grab some coffee – this is going to be a long one) I didn’t KNOW they were contractions when they started, but I had incredible low back pain, nausea, cramps, and an overall “weird” feeling. I called my OB and went in for monitoring. They confirmed that they were indeed contractions and gave me an injection to stop them. Within a week, I was in again for another injection and the following week the same. At that point, they put me on a daily med to stop the contractions and ordered me to bed rest. My OB visits became very frequent as they monitored both Jenna and I via stress tests and ultrasounds. At some point (I’m telling you – it’s all a blur), I developed abdominal pain, and the OB wanted to rule out gall bladder problems, so she sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound. The test seemed to take much longer than it should, and finally, the tech said she wanted to go call the doctor to ask for permission to scan the baby since only a gall bladder scan was ordered. This is where I started to worry.
I had gone to the ultrasound appointment on my own since it was “just for my gall bladder” and we fully expected it to be fine. I desperately wanted a hand to hold. The tech came back in and said she had permission to scan the baby, and she did, explaining to me as she went where Jenna’s head was, etc. I remember scrutinizing the images for any signs of trouble but being barely able to discern her heart from her lungs, let alone problems. After she finished, the tech said she wanted to go speak with the radiologist. She seemed to be attempting nonchalance, but I sensed something was not right. I think that for every minute she was out of the room, my worry increased exponentially. She came back in with the radiologist who explained that the tech had seen extra amniotic fluid, which is usually a sign of a problem with the baby. When she scanned the baby, they were able to see a defect in the small intestine. They explained that this could be an indicator of Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis or “simply” an intestinal blockage or atresia, and that more tests would need to be run for an accurate diagnosis.
I think I was mostly in a fog of shock and disbelief at that point, because I don’t remember crying. I know I was frantically worried and I jumped online and started researching based on the little information I knew. Which, of course, made me more worried. The next day we had an appointment with my OB who took a lot of time to talk with us and answer questions. I think at some point, she laid her hand on my stomach or shoulder and I just started crying and couldn’t stop. The next week was a blur of blood tests and ultrasounds that ultimately ruled out Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis and determined that Jenna had an intestinal atresia. Her small intestine had not formed correctly and was not fully attached in at least one place. We learned that surgery would be necessary within days of her birth to remove the malformed portions and reconnect what was healthy.
We toured the NICU, met with neonatologists and pediatric surgeons who explained what we could expect. We had no idea. We clung to every optimistic possibility the doctors offered and naively assumed that Jenna would have surgery, take a couple weeks to recover and we would go home and everything would be fine. Ha!
Over the course of my bed rest, I continued to have contractions in spite of being on medication. We had multiple trips to the triage unit of the maternity ward where we were monitored and sent home. They switched my med at one point to something that I had a horrible reaction to. They gave me an injection, and, as I was driving home, I started having severe chest pains. I called them back from my cell phone and their stressed out response stressed ME out. They ordered me to go immediately to the ER and said they would call ahead. The ER staff immediately whisked me to a room, where they discovered my blood pressure was dangerously high. My feet had swollen hugely and were blue (really!) and they were seriously concerned about blood clots. I had to have ultrasounds of my legs, and a chest x-ray in addition to multiple ultrasounds of Jenna along with fetal monitoring. Things settled down, Jenna and I were both fine, and I got to go home to more bed rest.
At each checkup, it was noted that I was measuring much larger than I should have for the stage I was at in the pregnancy. I was huge. My skin seriously felt like it was going to explode. Because there was so much extra amniotic fluid, my uterus was stretching to the max and the contractions were increasing. They decided to do an amnioreduction to take out extra fluid. This is basically the same procedure as an amniocentesis, except they leave the needle in for a while to draw out the fluid. Good times. It was the hugest needle I have ever seen, and they stuck it in my belly with no sort of anesthesia. Because I was having constant contractions, the needle would move and touch a nerve, which was one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was terrified that the needle would hurt Jenna, so I was tense to begin with. I remember clenching Hubby’s hand and quietly crying through most of the procedure. I think it took 10 or 15 minutes, and they drained almost 5 pounds of fluid. When they were finished, I felt almost immediately better. Less frequent contractions that weren’t as intense, and I didn’t feel like I was going to explode. It only lasted a few days. We ended up doing a total of 4 amnioreductions, but at every subsequent one, they gave me a muscle relaxant before the procedure that helped immensely.
Jenna’s due date was January 19, but at the end of December, I was so uncomfortable that my OB had me stop taking the meds that were stopping the contractions, fully expecting me to go into labor. No such luck. The contractions got stronger and more regular. Enough to stop me from being able to sleep or get comfortable, but not enough to progress labor. We made even MORE trips to the triage unit at the hospital where they monitored us, told me I was only dilated 1 cm and sent us home. The week after Christmas, after an amniocentesis and reduction, my OB said Jenna’s lungs were mature enough to deliver, and if I didn’t go into labor naturally, she would induce. She gave me a shot of steroids for Jenna’s lungs “just in case” since they were borderline on the development spectrum. On December 28, we were scheduled to induce labor.
Tune in tomorrow night for the dramatic conclusion of My Birth Story…… I promise it’s not gross (although my husband will assure you it WAS – – I’m choosing to leave the icky stuff out). I WILL tell you that I exceeded the limits posted on the sign in the photo above, but I did manage to avoid this fiasco:
Photo by bohnc
Read Part II here.