Robbie's Birth Story

After 2 1/2 years of trying to conceive, 2 miscarriages, 3 surgeries and loads of heartbreak, I found myself with my 3rd BFP on Christmas Day 2007.

I was nervous from the start. My history of miscarriage left me anxious all of the time. Then at 5 weeks, I started spotting. I immediately thought it was over. Again. My blood work indicated a healthy pregnancy and at 6 weeks, there was a beautiful, strong heartbeat.

I continued to spot. Every few days, my heart would stop. I think I had 6 ultrasounds in 10 weeks. I held my breath every day waiting for the other shoe to drop.

At around 12 weeks, I found myself very frustrated with my OBs office. It sometimes took 2 days to get a call back with a question. They didn't have an ultrasound machine in the office, so every time they wanted to check me, I had to schedule a 2nd appointment at an imaging center. And some of the office staff was just plain rude.

I finally decided to ask a Labor & Delivery nurse friend for a recommendation for a new OB. It was the best decision I ever made.

The new office was so much nicer. Not only did the staff return my phone calls quickly, sometimes they actually answered it. My OB was young and friendly, but seemed very knowledgeable. She was very positive, but also took my concerns seriously and never made me feel like a crazy woman.

The spotting slowed, but continued. Every week or two, I'd be greeted with pink on the paper. Eventually I was told that I was just going to be "one of those women." Lucky me.

I was seeing the doctor every two weeks because she wanted to keep an eye on the spotting. I think we were both scared of an abruption all the time.

Finally at 22 weeks, it seemed to stop. The doc agreed to let me go until 26 weeks w/o being seen.
At 25 weeks, I finally started to believe I might really have a baby. At 25w3d, I finally ordered some maternity clothes, instead of living in jogging pants and sweats.

At 25w4d, I woke up with a horrible stomach ache. The worst heart burn I'd ever experienced. I was miserable, but amused. This must be the heart burn every one is always talking about. I'd never had it before.

At 25w5d, the heartburn was even worse. I was a little worried, it just seemed so bad. I couldn't eat at all. I dry heaved instead of puking simply because there was nothing left to go. I told myself to suck it up and deal. I was lucky to be pregnant.

At 25w6d, I wanted to die. I hurt so bad. I hadn't eaten or slept in days. A friend of mine had HELLP syndrome at 32w and I mentioned to her how I'd looked up the symptoms because my stomach hurt so bad. But I wasn't swollen, didn't have a headache, and my pain wasn't on the side. It was my stomach. She wasn't reassured and insisted I call the doctor. I told her she was being silly. She asked me to please take my blood pressure. I agreed.

That night, I went to Walgreens thinking they had one of those booths you can sit in. They didn't, so I ended up buying a cuff and machine and taking it home. I took it and it kept coming back with ridiculous numbers. 185/105, for example. Well, I certainly knew THAT couldn't be true (go ahead, roll your eyes) and put it off to the fact that I'm a fat girl and the cuff was probably too small. My friend begged me to call the doctor. I said if I still felt bad in the morning, I would.

The next morning I woke up feeling kinda okay. And then I rolled over. WHAM! Like someone had punched me in the stomach.

I thought surely I was fine, but I was going to have to have something for the heartburn because this just sucked. I got up and called the doctor.

The nurse asked me if I was swelling (no), had a headache (no), and if I'd taken my blood pressure. I explained about the cuff being small and the odd numbers. She thought I was probably okay, but wanted to have me seen just in case. Could I be there in an hour? I live 30 minutes away, so I quickly threw some clothes on and ran out the door. I didn't even take time to shower. I would regret that.

When I got to the office, I peed in a cup as usual, then the PA took my blood pressure. And froze. Then I felt the blood pressure cuff reinflate. The PA had an odd look on her face. But wasn't saying anything. I asked if it was high and she nervously said "yes." I asked how high. She danced around a bit and finally said "well.. it's.. 186.. over.. 113..." I gasped. "OH! That's HIGH." I didn't even realize how high that truly was, just that it wasn't good.

She just said yes and said we'd listen to the baby. She got the Doppler out and everything sounded fine. I felt relieved.

She left the room saying that Kierstin (the nurse practitioner) would be right in.

Approximately 45 seconds later, my doctor came in the door and said "Hey girl, what's up?" I thought she'd come in just to say hey because she'd seen me come in. She's the friendly sort who would do that. I replied "Oh.. I've had this awful stomach ache for days and now my blood pressure is high." She frowned. "Yeah. And you're spilling a ton of protein into your urine."

My heart sank. Honestly, I hadn't thought anything was wrong until that moment. But the protein clicked. I stuttered "so.. it's.. pre-e.......then.." And she said yes. I asked "what now?" Fully expecting her to tell me I had to go home to bed.

"Now you go straight to St. John's."

I was confused. I wasn't delivering at St. John's. I was delivering at the hospital across the street from where we were. Maybe she'd forgotten. "St. Johns? Not St Anthony's?" What she said next will always haunt me.

"No. You need the NICU at St. John's."

That was the moment that I realized what was happening. She wasn't sending me to get my blood pressure under control. She was sending me to have a baby. Soon.

I started to cry. "No. NO NO NO. NO. This can't be happening. It's too soon. No no no."

She shook her head. "Well, this isn't what we would have wanted."

I asked her how long we could last. I was mentally preparing pregnancy milestones. I was 26 weeks exactly. Maybe I could make it to 32. Even 28?

She refused to answer, saying she couldn't anticipate anything beyond 24 hours. My mind reeled.

She told me to call my husband and have him meet me at the hospital. I stood up to gather my things. She looked back at me and said "You know, in fact.. sit back down. We might send you by ambulance."

My mouth dropped open. AMBULANCE?

I couldn't even think.

She left to arrange transport and I dialed my husband. I don't really even remember what I said to him, just that I was trying to remain calm on the phone. He tells me I failed. I'm sure he's right.

He was in the car, on his way to a work meeting with his boss. He was panicked, trying to figure out how to get there. He finally just said "I'll be there. I'll figure it out. I'll figure it out." and hung up.

A few minutes later, one of my best friends, who was 10 weeks more pregnant than me, texted me to see how things were going. My hands were shaking too badly to text back. I called her, instead. When she answered, I was crying, trying to explain what was happening, even though I didn't really understand it myself.

At that moment, my doctor popped back in and asked if I was talking to my husband, and could he come get me. An ambulance would take too long. Before I could even answer, my friend said she was on her way, she'd be right there. I couldn't think to even argue. She told me later she got up from work, grabbed her purse and left. They didn't even know what was happening.

While I waited for a ride, the doctor brought a copy of my medical records and put them in my purse. She explained that the hospital was already expecting me. She sat with me while I waited. I hope she knows how much that truly did help.

My friend arrived and we were off. I remember crying in the car and then laughing. This was so ridiculous. I slipped into denial mode. They just had to be wrong. There was no way this was happening. This was ridiculous. I don't take 2 1/2 years to get pregnant, lose baby after baby, bleed the whole time and then get preeclampsia. This was stupid.

We got to the hospital and everything was a blur. Fortunately my friend was planning to deliver at this hospital so she knew her way around. I just followed along, unable to even think about where we were going. We got off the elevator and I saw my husband. He'd beat us there. I just collapsed into his arms. I remember he was breathing quickly. Worried. Very unlike him.

We checked in and I was given a room. It seemed like dozens of people were in and out. The friend who drove me had talked to my labor and delivery nurse friend and she arrived. I was so grateful to have someone who understood what was going on. I just kept answering the same questions over and over. No, I don't have a headache. No, I don't see stars. No, I haven't been swollen.

They started an IV of magnesium sulfate and I was warned both by my caregivers and my friend that I was going to feel like crap soon. Lovely. I kept asking everyone how long I could last. No one would answer me.

Finally a perinatologist came in and told me he'd guess maybe 12 hours. I was given steroid shots to mature the baby's lungs. And I waited.

We didn't know the baby's gender yet and hadn't decided on names. My husband and I argued. He was rude. I made jokes. "You can't be mean to me. I might die." The nurses commented on my good spirits. They don't know that's a sign I'm too scared to think about anything else.

I wore a baby monitor all the time. He was still so small that he was lost easily; I couldn't lay any way except my back for them to hear him. I couldn't sleep at all.

When I made it 12 hours, I was thrilled. The next perinatologist came in and was more hopeful. Maybe I could make it a week or two. Wow, that would be amazing.

But then the 1st one came back and scoffed. No way I'd make it a week, he said.

In the mean time, I was weak. The mag made everything blurry. I had to practice breathing deeply every few hours. Every time they checked my oxygen, I was low and had to take a few extra breaths to keep from requiring oxygen. I was fitted with pressure cuffs to prevent blood clots. I needed help to stand to reach the bed side commode next to me. I was miserable.

But mostly I was worried.
The night of 26w1d, I started to feel worse. My stomach pains were worse. My liver enzymes had been creeping up. I could tell. I called my husband to my bedside and whispered what was happening. I was afraid to tell the doctors. I was afraid they'd deliver me immediately. The baby needed more time.

I tried to sleep, but was seeing stars. The fluid filling my body was settling in my brain. I still didn't tell anyone.

At 5am, I knew it was the day I would deliver my son. I lay in my hospital bed and prayed. And I sang. I sang lullabies to a baby I was afraid would never hear them outside the womb.

Around 9am, the resident came to check me. As she assessed me, I was honest. Do you have a headache? Yes. Does your stomach hurt worse? Yes. Are you seeing stars? Yes.

She froze. "You know what this means?" Yes.

She went to call the perinatologist. It had been 41 hours since my first steroid shots. I wanted to just make 48. Please, just let me make 48 hours. He was adamant there was no time. Maybe an hour. I had to wake my husband.

"Honey. Honey. Wake up. Honey, I need you to wake up. The baby is coming today."

The nurse who was with me commented that my adrenaline must have kicked in. The baby's heart rate picked up.

I called my friend, desperate for someone to bring me a camera. There would be no pictures of the baby without it. We called our families and told them to come now. Hospital staff swarmed my room. Labs were drawn, stat. I lucked out and my platelets were still high enough that I could be awake. The anesthesiologist gave me an epidural. The whole time, I played lullabies. My husband came to my bedside and prayed with me.

And then we were in the OR. I don't remember getting there. I remember feeling too much in my feet and having to up the epidural a few times. I remember retching while the anesthesiologist told me it was okay.

And then they were cutting. I heard the resident whisper "okay, he's out." Before I could register "he" the resident caught himself and said happily "It's a boy!"

I looked at my husband who leaned close and whispered "it's a boy. Wow." Then he said "I wish my dad was here to see this." He bowed his head and sobbed. His dad succumbed to cancer a few years ago. It broke my heart. I stroked his face, but I still didn't cry.

My vision was too blurry to see much, but I could see the shapes of the team working on Robbie. I don't remember speaking, but the respiratory therapist later told me that I kept asking over and over again if he was okay. They kept saying yes.

Finally blue man-shaped blur asked if I'd like to see him before they took him. I said yes.

They brought the tiniest bundle imaginable to my head. He was swaddled tightly, a hat on his head, all I could see were his eyes and his nose. I whispered that I loved him and kissed him on the head. He opened one eye and looked confused. Where am I?

They asked if Dad was going to accompany the baby to the NICU. If any man could ever split himself in half, he would have done it in that moment. He finally said he should stay with me. I was adamant he go with the baby. It was a selfish wish. I wanted him to bring me news ASAP. He finally agreed.

My eyes were heavy. I dozed while they stitched me up.
My husband returned and told me that the team had been laughing and joking as they walked. He thought that was a good sign.

The next thing I remember is being in recovery. My husband was calling and texting every human being we've ever spoken to. "It's a boy!" he declared with excitement. His enthusiasm infected me. I still hadn't cried.

Eventually I was taken to my room. My husband made frequent trips to the NICU always reporting that he was doing fine.

A few hours later, they wheeled me down to the NICU in my hospital bed. My epidural was still in. Mag was still dripping. I couldn't even sit up.

I got to the NICU and was stunned by how small he was. It didn't seem possible. I could see every vein through is skin. I could see his lungs being pumped full of breaths. There was a doctor, a nurse and a respiratory therapist just sitting at his bedside watching him. They explained a few of the machines and alarms, then asked if I had any questions.

"Is there anything I can do for him?" And then the tears started to fall. Finally. My son was 6 hours old and I finally could cry.

They asked me to pump. Breast milk. They needed breast milk. I was a woman on a mission. I was desperate to get back to my room and pump. Off I went.

Robbie spent 5 weeks intubated, another 3 weeks on CPAP and another 5 on a canula of varying flows. When he was 37 weeks gestation, it was discovered that he'd been born with an incomplete diaphragm causing a hiatal hernia. He required surgery to fix it and it would prove to be his greatest challenge.

He was discharged from the hospital on Sept 4, 2008- his original due date. It was the happiest day of my life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was an ─▒ncredible story... My tears fell down. I hope everthing ok for your family now.. There are a lot of patients trying to have a baby in our center. I am trying to help them. Sometimes the end of the story is happy sometimes not...