Monday, July 27, 2009

Perfection with a little work.

The next two weeks were spent in the Prince George Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where Scott and I were taught anything you could ever need or want to know about babies. We learned to give baths, change diapers, clean the belly button area, and breast feed (the breast feeding was mainly my domain!) We also learned to adjust wires, gavage feed (he was tube fed for the first week as he was too weak to eat), weigh and take his temperature. Scott and I spent most nights in the hospital with him, sleeping together in the single bed they had in his room, not an easy feat if you've ever seen Scott in person...he's not a little guy!

Lucky for us the only true problem he had was eating and that resolved with soother time, and bottle feeds (they helped to develop the muscles in his cheeks for suckling). He did have three decels within the first two days after his birth (his breathing and heart rate dropped off) but that also resolved in a short period of time. He was the perfect preemie and we were told as long as he continued to gain weight we would be able to bring him home sooner than expected.

Before being released he had to pass a car seat challenge test (a preemie is weaker than the normal infant, and due to the position they are put in while in a car seat, they can stop breathing after a period of time because they can't lift their chin off their chests). He passed the hour long test with flying colors!

Gabe was ready to leave after 13 days in the NICU. As his parents we were given careful instructions on how to keep him safe and healthy. We were told that for the next three months we shouldn't take him out to any public places (like malls, restaurants, etc) because his immune system was still immature and any cold or flu bug could create infection and land him right back in the NICU. We were also told that sterilizing bottles, which we used strictly for vitamin D drops and Iron drops, and sterilizing his soother everyday was a must. The nurses informed us that we would not be able to take him on long road trips without stopping every hour to let him out of his car seat so that his little muscles could take a break. Finally we were given a handful of exercises to do with him in order to build his strength and it was stressed how vitally important tummy time would be for him.

Convinced that we had everything in hand we were given the go ahead to leave. We were taking our baby home and I don't think I've been anymore scared in my entire life.

To say that Scott and I over did it in the first few months would be an understatement. We sterilized everything; his soothers, nipples, bottles, crib, changing pad (to the point that it was falling apart). We washed our hands so many times a day that both of our hands would crack and bleed. The trip we had to make every month for him to see his paediatrician was an hour and a half and we would stop at Vanderhoof every time to let him out of the car seat. I sat in the back seat with him, with a mirror under his nose for the first four months of his life to ensure he was still breathing...needless to say...we were pretty exhausted by the time he was six months old.

We also had appointments with our family doctor every month, nurses who specialized in infant massage, and infant development coming to do home visits to assess him and give us even more exercises to do. We also had appointments with the child development center because he wasn't using the left side of his body and was once again given a multitude of physical therapy exercises for him. Gabe was probably the most well cared for infant in all of Fraser Lake and we were probably the most informed parents in that little town as well.

We were told that certain products on the market we would not be allowed to use as it could stunt his physical development even more than it already was. We weren't allowed to use "Bumbos", as it encourages kids not to develop proper muscles in their backs and tummys for sitting, not to use "exersaucers" or "jolly jumpers" as it encouraged arched backs and pointed toes which would affect his walking. And we were also told to expect that he would be six weeks behind every other baby his age, and in fact not to even count his age from his birthday, but from his gestation.

I know a lot of people think six weeks isn't very much, and its not when kids get older, but at six weeks old babies have their first smiles, we got our first smile from him when he was 3 months old. Sitting up, and crawling were also behind. He didn't follow objects with his eyes or grasp for things when most kids do either. Eventually though, at about a year, Gabe caught up. But for those first few months when you're waiting with baited breath for your child to interact with you it was difficult. And of course there were also those people who would make comments like "Oh, hes not doing that yet?" or "my kid was doing that months ago", etc etc. I know I shouldn't have let it bother me, but it did. I hated people judging him. It wasn't his fault he was a little behind.

For all of our worries over Gabe he has become a very animated, intelligent little boy. He makes me laugh everyday, and I wouldn't change anything about him. To me he's perfection. I love him with every grain of my being.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just Breathe

Finally on March 13th, two days after being admitted to the hospital for preterm premature rupture of membranes, I received an ultrasound to measure my amniotic fluid levels. They were so low they decided to induce me that night. There was a mad scramble to try and set up an ultrasound for my heart and get a cardiologist to review the film before they set labour into motion.

Later that afternoon the obstetrician came to tell me she didn't think they would have time to do the ECG and they would just have to proceed as though I did have aortic stenosis. She said it would be tricky because they would need to control my pain without giving me drugs that could affect the heart and send me into cardiac arrest, or worse.

I remember feeling very little at that point. Everything had happened so fast. I wasn't registering anything anymore. I was past the point of panic. Two hours later the doctor came back with news that she had finally managed to get me in for an ECG. The test took a little over an hour and in the end they discovered that I did have an aortic, bicuspid, valve defect, but that it wasn't aortic stenosis and it wouldn't affect me during the birth of my child. My relief was short lived. I now had my son to worry about.

At 9 pm that night I was induced, and for anyone who has had an induction you know there is very little transitioning between prelabour to birth. My labour was hard and fast from the beginning and on top of it I was in back labour. I remember thinking that the pain was just too much to bear. I repeatedly asked for an epidural and they repeatedly told me that it was too early for one and that from the look of the contractions (which never got closer than three minutes apart) I wasn't progressing. So instead they gave me a shot of morphine and told me to suck back on the laughing gas. Now the reason they never checked to see how far I was dilated was because the obstetrician forbid it. If labour didn't take and the induction failed then the constant checking of my cervix could cause infection and I would have even more problems to deal with.

I think not knowing how much longer you have to be in excruciating pain for was the worst part of my labour. There was no jumping off point. I couldn't say okay, I've made it to seven centimeters, i can make it the rest of the way. The only way the nurses could tell if I was progressing was by how close my contractions were, and like I said, they were never any closer than 3 minutes apart.

The nurses were so convinced of my lack of progress that after 12 hours they sent my husband to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Ten minutes after he left I began to throw up, and a resident who had been following my case and had come to check on me, decided that she would check me against doctors orders. She soon announced that I was 9 centimeters dilated and the nurses better page the doctor. The doctor wasn't the only one called, Scott was also paged and he later told me how he sprinted up three flights of stairs to get back to my room. He made it before the doctor did, but I also told him that if he left my side again I would murder him. Needless to say with our next child he was not allowed to leave the room, no matter how tired or hungry he became.

After the doctor arrived he told me it was time to start pushing. It took five pushes and 20 minutes to get Gabriel into this world. Meanwhile four NICU nurses and the paediatrician, along with three of his residents waited in the back of the room to receive my son. There were also the two induction nurses, the maternity resident who had been following my case, the nurse who had originally admitted me and her two student nurses, and the delivery doctor all crammed into the induction suite. It was a regular birth party. After Gabriel was born he was rushed to the back so quickly I didn't even get a glimpse of him.

Now, I knew that I shouldn't expect him to cry. I was warned multiple times that he may not be able to breathe on his own, but as a mother you don't really have a choice to whether or not you are going to listen for your child's first breath. I remember peering around Dr. Preston as he tried his best to distract me while I was trying my best to ignore him. I knew then that it was taking too long for Gabriel to cry, I began to panic. All I could think was "he can't die". The word "breathe" became a mantra in my head as I prayed to whatever god might be out there. I looked at Scott and could see that he was listening for the cry as well. I never wanted anything so badly in my life but to hear my child scream his little lungs out. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, we heard him. His cry rang throughout the room and I collapsed backwards onto my pillow from exhaustion and relief.

My baby was alive. He was alive.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bedside Manner

After a full day of wedding planning I was happy to get off my feet and fell unconscious a little after ten. At about six am the next morning I turned over in bed, not an easy feat with 50 extra pounds, and was embarrassed to feel myself pee the bed. Luckily I was wearing a pad and quickly rushed to the bathroom. I emptied my bladder and was about to go back to bed convinced that there shall be no further instances of incontinence, now that my bladder was empty, when I was confused to discover that, after standing, another large gush filled my pad. It was then that I realized that it hadn't been an embarrassing case of incontinence, but something more ominous. Fifty thoughts ran through my mind at once, the first thought being "what does it feel like to have your water break"? the second thought being "its too early". I wandered back to the bedroom where Scott lay asleep, oblivious to the drama that was unfolding around him. I hesitated in waking him because a part of me truly couldn't believe that my water could have broken so early. After a few moments i decided that I couldn't ignore the possibility and prodded Scott awake. "I think my water broke" I remember that he seemed much calmer than I felt was warranted in the situation. "did you have a bloody show"? he asked. I immediately responded "no". He smiled and said "then you're fine, go back to bed". He turned over, convinced that I was overreacting, but I wasn't going to let this go so easily. He wasn't a doctor after all. "I don't think you have to have a bloody show to have your water break...I'm phoning my sister".

I decided I would phone my sister Michelle, she had birthed three babies, and if anyone would know, she would. I got ahold of her on the second ring and immediately knew something was off. Her voice sounded strained, a little off. "were you still sleeping?" I asked. "No, I've been up for hours". I remember thinking that she must have a cold or something because she just didn't' sound right and I even stated as much to her. Her silence was deafening, "you haven't heard, have you?" she asked. Hadn't heard what I wondered. Before I could ask she stated, "Aaron killed himself". Aaron was my sister's brother in law. Her husbands youngest brother. He lived with them in Fort St. John and I had just seen him a few months earlier. My voice stuck in my throat and I suddenly felt like an idiot phoning her for such a stupid reason. After all, the chances of my water breaking so early was slim to none. I expressed my condolences and was about to hang up when sisterly intuition caused Michelle to ask what was wrong. I then explained the situation and she told me to get to the hospital as soon as possible, she told me that they could do a test to check to see if my water had broken. I promised to keep her updated.

I rushed upstairs and told Scott we were heading to the hospital my thoughts racing from my baby back to Aaron. He had driven himself off a cliff. Disbelief ruled all. Shock from all the less than stellar events began to set in. The one stupid thought that kept playing over and over was how when one life ended another would inevitably begin. Even then, a part of me believed my baby was on his way.

After taking the scenic route to the hospital (did i mention Scott was beginning to panic) we finally arrived and I told the maternity nurse what I thought had happened. She looked at me with an accommodating, but doubtful look and said the doctor would see me in the assessment room. After hearing my story the doctor stated that it did sound as though my water had broken and he did a few tests that, of course, came back inconclusive.

Instead of sending us home (since we lived an hour and a half away) he phoned the obstetrician on call and she said to admit me, and it would become known within 24 hours whether or not my water had indeed broken. I was wheeled to maternity and told that if I felt anymore gushes to page the nurse and she would do another swab test to confirm whether or not my membranes had ruptured. Because I hadn't felt any gushes for a while Scott and I began to believe that I had indeed been hysterical to believe that anything was wrong. Assured that everything would be alright he headed off to Walmart to get us some over night clothes for the hospital (we didn't have anything since we hadn't planned to stay in Prince George the night before). While Scott was shopping in Walmart I had another large gush of fluid and it was then confirmed, by three nurses nodding their heads and speaking in unison, that I was indeed ruptured. I love how doctors and nurses speak to one another as if you aren't in the room. "what does that mean" I asked interrupting their less than private meeting. The nurse glanced over and merely stated "your water broke". I was then left alone to try and contemplate what the hell was going to happen now. When I asked her what that meant, I hadn't meant the literal translation; I wasn't a complete idiot! Soon there after Scott arrived back at the hospital and I told him that it was confirmed. My water was broken. Dr. Preston, the one who admitted me, and the one who would later deliver my son, came in and informed us of protocol in this sort of situation.

He told us that in some cases the rupture if small enough could repair itself and I could go on with the rest of my pregnancy, on bed rest, but at least to full term. I would have to stay in the hospital because I would need antibiotics in order to prevent a uterine infection and I would receive steroid shots that would help my babies lungs to develop. If worse came to worse, they would induce me and I would deliver my baby within a few days. My head was reeling from all the information but I was still coherent enough to mention my heart murmur. His look of concern was deja vu and I became an enigma once more. He told me that he would mention it to the on call obstetrician to see what, if anything, should be done.

Later that night the obstetrician came to examine me and to tell me what was going to happen in the next 24 hours. She went over the steroid shot information once more and said I would receive an ultrasound to determine amniotic fluid levels, and if levels were good they would keep me in the hospital for as long as possible. I would have my temperature checked every three hours to ensure I hadn't developed an infection and before they induced me (if they had to induce me) she would very much like to get the ECG done of my heart. To say that this doctors bed side manner was somewhat lacking would be an understatement. She told me the facts in a cold calculated manner explaining everything in under five minutes. In her little speech she told me what to expect from a 34 week old preemie. "At this gestational age its a toss up to whether their lungs will be developed enough to breathe on their own, even after the steroid shots, so don't expect to hear your baby cry, and don't expect to hold him after birth. He may need to be intibated which will be performed by the NICU nurses, he will have to be put on antibiotics right away, and he may need a tube in order to eat. Because he is so gestationally young the chance of infection is high and he could develop one at any time. You should expect that he will remain in hospital up until your original due date. Babies being born at 34 weeks have a 95% chance of survival". I glanced at Scott not fully convinced of what I just heard. Did that mean he had a 5 percent chance of not surviving? Then she rushed on to the explain what could happen if they induced me and I indeed had aortic stenosis. She said the stress on my possibly weakened heart could cause heart attack, stroke, or my lungs to fill with fluid effectively drowning me. "Hopefully", she stated, "we'll have time to get the echo cardiogram done on your heart before your baby is born". I blinked in surprise...hopefully....?

After that jolly woman left I looked at Scott and was again amazed by how calm he looked. "aren't you scared?" I asked. He shook his head and said "i get to meet our son soon, how could i be scared about that?" Little did I know he was freaking out. I suppose being a cop makes it so you can hide your emotions quite effectively. Later he would tell me "how do you think I felt? I was just told in a little under 5 minutes that I could lose my son and the woman I loved". Looking back now i realize, Scott must have been 100 times more terrified than me.

Where the heart is.

Now to the story of my first pregnancy and all the interesting twists and turns along the way. Scott and I had decided that we would stop using protection and if we got pregnant then it was meant to be. Our attempt at not trying but not preventing pregnancy lasted a few months before I decided to start charting my cycle. Pregnancy tests were just getting to damned expensive and the silent hoping and constant let downs just became to much to bear. I decided to take matters into my own hands and during peek ovulation in the month of July we did it, had sex, took a roll in the hay. Ironically, Scott got cold feet and we both agreed to wait one year before trying again. Turns out once was enough and the pregnancy test I took in the China Cup restaurant (a Chinese buffet of which I lost my appetite for ) quickly revealed a positive pregnancy test result. I came out of the bathroom with what I can only assume was a look of shock on my face and Scott mistakenly assumed I had received another disappointing result. When I sat across from him and blurted "looks like you're going to be a daddy" he thought I was teasing him and insisted on seeing the test before his expression took on a look of numbed shock as well. Within a half an hour we had phoned everyone we knew and told them the good news, never believing for one second anything could ever go wrong. Never believing that this pregnancy would be anything but perfectly routine and normal. Boy were we in for a shock.

My first prenatal exam (at ten weeks) revealed a healthy pregnancy, good hormone levels, a healthy blood pressure, and the most perfect sounding heartbeat I had ever heard. So when it came for the doctor to listen to my own heart her extended silence, the look of worry, and hushed meeting held just outside my room should have forewarned me to the problems to come.

When at last their worried faces reentered the room they informed me that I had a heart murmur and in their opinion it was my aortic valve, and could be a condition called aortic stenosis. Well let me tell you, anytime you hear aorta and problem in the same sentence you freak out a little. Now i wasn't an expert on the heart but isn't the aortic valve the most important?! Looking over at Scott's face confirmed my belief in the necessity of aortic valves and a slow sinking began in the pit of my stomach. "What does that mean", I finally had the courage to ask. They said it could mean nothing, lots of people have heart murmurs, or it could mean that keeping a close on eye on me, especially during the birth of my child, could be more than necessary. I didn't have a clue as to what that meant but it didn't sound good. They refused to elaborate sooner until they had some concrete results. They then informed me that I was in luck because the top cardiologist in BC just happened to be passing through town in a few days and they were going to get him to examine me. Call me a pessimist, but I sure as hell didn't feel lucky.

Now I'm not good at sitting around and twirling my thumbs while waiting for reassurance or information. So I googled aortic stenosis and from what I could gather it was an abnormally narrow valve which affected blood flow in and out of the heart. Well that didn't sound so horrible and in a few days when I got to meet the top cardiologist in BC I was assured that it didn't sound like aortic stenosis after all. Which would have been such a relief if the man hadn't easily been 80 years old and surely didn't have the hearing he once had. He must not have been convinced of the condition of his ears either, as he suggested that to be on the safe side I should receive an echo cardiogram. An ECG, he explained, was basically an ultrasound of the heart. So the oldest, cardiologist alive in BC set up an appointment for me, which thanks to the slow health care system was set for my 35th week of pregnancy, 25 weeks away.

To say my heart murmur played on my mind was an understatement and it was difficult to ignore since every time i went for a prenatal exam different doctors, nurses, and residents were called into listen to my heart. I was something of a case study. On the bright side, my pregnancy was chugging along beautifully. I hadn't had morning sickness, I wasn't overly moody, and I glowed just as people say happens when you become pregnant. I gained entirely too much weight, but I was enjoying all the little things along the way so much, that the 50 plus lbs I had packed on just didn't matter.

Around week 30 of my pregnancy Scott's mother convinced us to get married before the baby was born. We were already engaged, so why not? I feverishly began to plan our wedding, and I was finally able to push the possible, faulty, aortic valve out of my mind. We had the venue arranged, I had my dress, and we had hired a commissioner we both liked. The last few things I needed to wrap up (the cake and flowers) could be done in a day. We travelled to Prince George in my 33rd week of pregnancy to put the final touches on our wedding and spent all day cementing the plans on the upcoming nuptials. That night we decided to stay at my mothers house (she was in Mexico) before travelling back to Fraser Lake (our home, an hour and a half away). I collapsed into bed that night elated. The plans were done, we were going to be married in less than a month and soon enough I would have my little baby in my arms. Little did I know how true this statement would become.

Friday, July 24, 2009


My first blog! How exciting! I've been thinking of creating one for a while but was finally inspired into action through a friend of mines blog. Another mother who has found a bit or relief when being allowed (nap times) to sit at her computer and pound out her frustrations or type out her successes. I figure it must be good therapy!

Anyway, I suppose I should write about how my life started so that I can keep you all updated as it progresses! Of course, I'm not talking literally, as in my birth date, or country of origin. I'm speaking of the year that my life changed so drastically that I was no longer a girl, but suddenly a real life, grown up woman.

This happened (not all at once) but was precipitated by meeting my husband (or soon to be) Scott. We don't really like to brag about the way we met as it is much to embarrassing. We met online, through a free dating website. Of course, when mentioning that I was member of a dating website, my family acted as though I was committed to getting murdered at the ripe old age of 23. As always I heeded no ones advice but my own, never a wise decision up until this point, which may explains every one's skepticism. In fact when I told my mom that this particular persons profile stated that they were in law enforcement and was probably a police officer my mom scoffed and replied "honey with your luck, hes a mall security guard". For once my mother was wrong. Not that I have anything against mall security guards, but a police officer is a much more romantic idea...or so I thought back then.

So I first met Scott in person at Tim Hortons; typical right? He claimed it had nothing to do with being a cop, but more to do with reliable service of good hot coffee and a relaxing atmosphere. In retrospect the good hot coffee would have served us better after his awkward choice to continue our date at Cotton Wood park. The park would have been a uniquely romantic idea if it had been summer, not winter, 28 not -28, with fresh cut grass, not freshly packed snow which hit our waists. Of course if the second half of the date hadn't been such a memorable disaster I doubt I would have found him endearing enough for a second date.

Ultimately, we hit it off better than either of us expected and within a few months we were declaring our undying love, writing love sonnets, and cuddling for hours at a time. A few months after that I moved in with him and the undying love, sickly sweet love notes and cuddlings continued but now new challenges arose in our life. I had to find a new job as i had moved cities to be with him, and harder yet learn to live with the challenges of living with and loving a cop. There was the midnight phone calls for back up, an extreme amount of overtime, and the one call every cops wife dreads to hear..."your husbands been involved in a shooting, back ups been called, and hes still out there". I was six weeks pregnant at the time.

I could not imagine how i would explain to my unborn child what their father had been like in life,after all, I hadn't had nearly enough time to learn everything i wanted or needed to know. I'm not talking about the mundane facts you learn over coffee like how many siblings, or one's favorite color. I'm talking about the little things you learn on a day to day basis; the little nuances that make a person unique. The sounds they made as they slept, or the way their laughter sounded when they found something truly funny. These things I had just begun to know and to memorize; I could not imagine how I would ever accurately describe them. I would later learn my husbands only thought was how he would never get to meet the little person who grew a little more everyday inside me, and how he would miss everything that would make his son or daughter unique. How he would miss, the first smile, first laugh, first word. All these thoughts he said ran through his head in but a second, and he pushed them from his mind in the next, "it wouldn't have been smart to think of everything I could lose, because it would cloud my judgement; I would make a mistake, and then, no doubt, would lose everything"

Three lives could have been robbed that night. Our family could have been shattered before it had ever truly begun. Thankfully my husband got away with fairly minor injuries while dodging the bullets that were meant to take his life from this earth, from his child, and from me. But life is funny in the way it shows you to be grateful for what you have and to be grateful for everyday that you have it.

So that was the start! Wonderful, exciting, and terrifying. And it continues to be so, everyday!