Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Our Whole Story"

The prompt was tell your whole story.

How can I write a whole story?  Because a story of a person, or a family, doesn’t have a beginning and it doesn’t have an end.  If you think about it, we existed in our parents who existed in their parents.  We have no beginning.  And while we are alive, we definitely don’t have an end.  And I think even when we’re dead, we don’t really have an end, because we still impact people.  So, how do I write “our whole story”?

Five Week Ultrasound

Do I begin at meeting my spouse, or do I begin at marrying him?  Do I begin with the birth of our first son?  In this case, I think “our whole story” is confined to one pregnancy and its aftermath.  In the spring of 2009, we decided we were ready to have another child.  Went to the OB, started trying and luckily were very quickly pregnant.  Five weeks into that pregnancy, had an ultrasound and it looked like it was probably twins. 

Seven weeks, definitely twins.  And I guess that’s the beginning of our story.
Seven Week Ultrasound - "Heart" & "Eggplant"

I have about as easy a pregnancy and birth story with our older son as it is possible to have.  37 weeks without even a cold, working full-time happily and both happy and healthy.  Blood pressure started to go up then, so he was induced at 38 weeks.  Watched TV for 12 hours, put in three minutes of work and got a kid and a large pizza.  He was 8 pounds, 1 ounce and healthy except for some jaundice issues.

This second pregnancy?  Nothing like that.  I had a pretty bad sinus infection early in the first trimester followed by bronchitis later in the first trimester with an extra cold in the middle. 
Aurelia @ 12 Weeks

Chiron @ 12 Weeks

Then I had two separate back-to-back GI bugs in the second trimester that caused me to lose 16 pounds over two weeks.  By week 20 things were looking good and easy. 
Aurelia @ 20 weeks

Chiron @ 20 Weeks

 Both babies checked out beautifully at their 20 and 24 week anatomical scans and my cervix was praised as gorgeous at 24 weeks.  I was definitely growing and at 24 weeks was about the size when my older son was born!
Together at 20 Weeks

Then it all changed

I experienced some weird sensations at 23.5 weeks and so the perinatologist moved my appointment up one day to check me the next day and perform the 24 week scans.  Both babies were fantastic and he labeled them viable.  Unfortunately, I don't know who is who in these last 4 ultrasound pictures that I have from the 24 week ultrasound.

A day and a half later, I went in for a routine OB appointment.  My OB was actually out on maternity leave, but was only supposed to be missing one appointment, so I had been scheduled with a random OB that had an appointment.  She came in, with a resident or whatever you call the student doctors, following her.  I impressed them with my ability to sit up on my own and they started passing out the glucose tolerance drink.  The resident was chatting about her twins while the OB grabbed the ultrasound.  Since there were two babies, they always checked the heartbeats with an ultrasound.  She started with baby A and asked if we knew the genders. 

She grumbled something to the effect of “it’s not cooperating” and moved up to baby B.  I thought she meant to see the genders.  Baby B checked out great.  Something in the attitude of the room had changed though and I looked closer and somehow I knew that A, our girl, our daughter Aurelia, was dead.  I was by myself at the OB’s office for the first time ever with a doctor I had never met before and a resident.  She went back to A, but there was no heartbeat.  “I’m afraid something catastrophic has happened.” 

I still don’t like the word catastrophic.

I was sent over to the perinatologist’s office.  The wonderful nurse of my normal doctor actually drove me over.  My husband met us there and we were taken back.  They confirmed a fetal demise in baby A.  Sometime in the day and a half between checking out as perfect and viable, she had died.

We were sent home with instructions to follow strict bedrest and to call if anything unusual was felt.  I had gone from a Facebook status of “can’t decide if she has a gyro problem or if the guy at Pars Deli is just that friendly” to “is processing.  Sometime after Wednesday morning and before this morning, the girl twin died.  No abnormalities or infections to give an idea of why, so focusing now on giving the boy twin as long as possible to grow and develop.  This was just past 24 weeks.  No guarantees obviously, but hopeful thoughts.”  It had all changed.

By the next morning, I was feeling regular contractions.  We were sent to the hospital and I was put on magnesium to try to stop the contractions.  One of the neonatal nurse practitioners from the NICU came down to talk to us about what would happen if we delivered them at 24 weeks and change.

The mag worked.  I stopped dilating.  I was moved over to the stable antepartum side where I stayed for the next six weeks with some trips back and forth to L&D.

I would like to claim that I handled everything well.  I did on some levels.  I actually worked full-time while in the hospital and did a good job of it.  I communicated with friends and family and honestly enjoyed the very frequent visits.  But I was also a little crazy.  My OB was on call early in my stay (despite being on maternity leave!) and I did not recognize her, that’s how disoriented I was.  For the first probably four weeks, I on some level expected my son, Baby B, to be dead whenever they hooked me up for a nonstress test of fetal heart tones.  For some reason I didn’t tell anyone this though.  Like I said, I was crazy.

Then three days before Christmas, I started feeling some odd contractions.  They weren’t like what I had been having on and off.  They were confined to my back.  L&D was full, but they started terbutaline protocol in my stable room.  The contractions stopped.  Then a couple hours later, they started again.  At this point one of the doctor’s actually checked me and I was five centimeters.  Her statement, “Happy Birthday.” 

While I liked this doctor, it was close enough to the start of a normal day that she texted my normal OB (who was back from maternity leave) who came in to deliver them.  May seem like a small thing, but this meant the world to us.   The doctor who was on call and the nurses worked to get us all prepped and said we would wait for my doctor as long as I didn’t rupture.  Despite a “poop event”, which I never got defined, my doctor made it and we went back for the c-section.

My memories of the c-section are very vague.  I know I got a spinal at some point, but I can’t remember it sticking.  Just being rolled on my side.  I remember being very, VERY bothered by the drape.  In my mind, it was going to be a vertical curtain.  It wasn’t.  It was on an angle, billowing in my mouth and nose.  Gave Paul, my husband, something to do though in keeping it out of my mouth.  I hated that drape.  Hated.

My clear memory is the OB calling out, “Good grief!” and seeming to jump.  Turned out when his water broke, it did it rather violently.  Our daughter was born at 08:15 and her brother followed quickly at 08:16.  No one mentioned her.  We heard him and were glad to hear his protests.  He was spirited off to get into the warmed transport unit.  We asked if they were going to deliver her now and that’s when we found out they already had.  I wish I had known at the time.  It just made her seem like more of a footnote that we weren’t told.

Chiron got APGARs of 7 and then 9.  We saw him briefly in the transport unit on his way out and up to the NICU and I even got to touch his hand.  He was a scrappy 3 pounds, 1.4 ounces or 1402 grams.

Paul went up with him as soon as I was moved to the recovery room.  I was given a diaper that was Chiron’s size to hold.

I really didn’t know what to do with myself as bored might be the best descriptor.  Paul had luckily left my phone, so I busied myself updating Facebook and even took a call from work and talked a coworker through how to do something for about ten minutes before telling her what had happened.  This motivated me to follow up with my boss. 

My doctor had told me that I could go up as soon as I could transfer to a wheelchair, so from the time I hit the recovery room I was working on moving my legs.  At the time I was moved to a real room two hours later, I knew I could do it.  But I met a roadblock.  The nurse I had was one I didn’t know and I for some reason didn’t have my thoughts together enough to ask her to send one of the others or call down to the nurse’s station and talk to one of the ones I knew.  And she said no.  She said I couldn’t go for like 24 hours.  I should have protested, but I didn’t.  I knew my doctor had said she would be over at lunch and so I waited.

I really almost killed this nurse because despite the OB having said I could eat as I desired, she wouldn’t let me eat ANYTHING.  And she wouldn’t get me a breast pump.  It wasn’t until I was going to send my husband down the street to rent a pump that she got one!

My OB rocks and when she got there she said not only could I go up, but I could eat whatever I wanted.  Our streak of being blessed continued as not two minutes after this declaration a friend walked in.  This friend actually is a NICU nurse who works at another NICU in town.  She went up with us to meet the man.

I really only feared for Chiron once the entire time he was in the NICU and that was late that first night, but they intubated him for about eight hours after his second dose of surfactant and this allowed him to get enough rest in that he did great.  They warn you about a rollercoaster, but we never experienced this.  Chiron was a glider.  Slow and steady, he progressed until after 53 days, he was discharged.

The flipside of the story was Aurelia.  She was brought to me in the recovery room and then again when I got to a real room (another reason I threw less of a fit about going to the NICU).  She was just wrapped in a blanket originally and then dressed in the smallest knit gown ever when they brought her again.  I regret that we took no pictures.  We just have the six pictures that were taken by my recovery nurse of her.  I regret that I have no images other than my mind of holding her.  I regret not having her brought back one time.  But I don’t mourn these decisions.  They were fine, just that I would do them again if I had it to do over.

They were born on December 23, so coordinating getting her to the funeral home was oddly complicated.  She qualified by six grams for group burial, but we decided to go ahead with our plan to have her cremated.  And she was.  One funny memory is that when we were taken in to look at the urns, both Paul and I instantly knew what one was right.  It’s a brushed nickel looking one and like all infant urns, is tiny.

Her cremation and his discharge aren’t the end of story though really.  The story is still going on.

1 comment:

  1. I've read this post through quite a few times now and I still can't summon up a coherent response but here goes.

    In this case, I think “our whole story” is confined to one pregnancy and its aftermath. This sentence sent a chill down my back. Ours too. No matter what happened before, or will happen in the future, that one pregnancy seems to impact on everything else. It's like a pivot point that everything else now seems to swing about. Perhaps I'll feel differently in the future? And yes, everything going swimmingly until 23 and change and then something . . . catastrophic.

    I am not at all surprised that you dislike that word so much now.

    I would like to claim that I handled everything well. I did on some levels. I am filled with admiration that you carried on working, my numbers brain went south straight away. But I think I can understand that sort of 'crazy' that you went. I found that I couldn't remember things or people and I also had persistent ideas that I didn't share with anybody at the time as you mentioned about expecting Chiron's NSTs to reveal that he had also died.

    I'm sorry that they didn't tell you once they had delivered Aurelia. That would have saddened me too.

    I love the photograph of Chiron after birth, so tiny but so perfect.

    Sorry that you had that crazy nurse. That sounds absolutely maddening. Why on earth wouldn't she let you have a breast pump? That seems the strangest of several weird decisions.

    Glad that Chiron glided through the NICU so steadily. I'm sorry that you have some regrets about the time you spent with Aurelia but I am glad you don't mourn those decisions. It took me some time to forgive myself some of the choices that I made in the immediate aftermath but, I think, that the experience even of giving birth is something that leaves you in deep shock for a time.

    It is strange that you and your husband had such agreement over the urn, it was obviously the 'right' one for Aurelia's ashes.

    Sorry for this rather bitty comment, there is so much that I would like to respond to in this post but I can't seem to string it together and if I keep trying I'll never write anything. I'm sorry that your Aurelia died, I do so wish it hadn't happened.