Sunday, July 24, 2011

How Nixie Ended Up in the NICU

I realized today that some of you have been reading this blog for a month, praying for our little champion without really knowing why she was so early in the first place.

Well, here is the story. And I really am not going to spare the details. So if birth and/or blood weirds you out ... bummer.

It all started on Friday, June 10th. I got home from work at Barnes and Noble close to 11 pm; despite my exhaustion, however, I never really fell asleep. After laying in bed for awhile -- just unwinding from the day -- I started to feel sick to my stomach, accompanied by some cramping. I didn't worry too much, because I knew that Braxton-Hicks contractions (to get your uterus in shape) are normal for pregnancies in the third trimester. The cramping started to get stronger and stronger, and I remember moaning in bed as I tried in vain to fall asleep. I would find out later that the intense cramping was actually contractions so close together that they were essentially continuous. Then, around 2 in the morning, I felt a warm wetness and jumped out of bed into the bathroom. Within seconds, I had bled all over the floor -- like a seriously scary amount of blood. Our OB told us later that you know things are bad when women have blood in-between their toes -- and I certainly did. I yelled for Josh, and when he came into the bathroom, I told him to call our midwife. Since they don't directly connect you with the midwife/OB on call, we had to wait a few minutes to find out what we should do. I was still hurting pretty bad, so I laid a towel on the bed and prayed desperately to feel Tiny Cash moving ... and she did, thank the Lord. In fact, she seemed totally unaffected by my predicament. She just kept doing her little womb dance that she liked to do whenever I wanted to sleep.
After 20 min, we still hadn't heard anything, so Josh called again. Two minutes later, we heard from Sarah, one of the midwives from our practice. After getting details from us, she told us to head to the hospital. I quickly showered the blood off my legs and feet, and we jumped in the car to head to the hospital. In a moment of clarity, I told Josh to stick a key under the mat at our house in case we would need people to bring us things from home. Obviously, at 28 weeks, I had not yet packed my hospital bag.
Both Josh and I were fairly calm, and we drove as fast as possible before getting stuck behind a cop on the way -- we figured getting pulled over could seriously delay the process. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent the walk into the hospital clearly communicating to Tiny Cash that she needed to stay inside for a while longer. After some confusion about where to go after getting off the elevator (we also had not yet taken our hospital tour), we finally found the Labor and Delivery nurses station, where I got set up in a room. I hadn't really bled much since that initial hemorrhage, so everything was pretty calm. Josh got me registered while I laid around, and we just kind of hung out for a couple of hours waiting to get an ultrasound. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor, and TC was doing fine. I was still having contractions however, so they gave me A LOT of fluid (since dehydration can apparently start contractions) and some medicine to stop them. We weren't all that worried or scared at that point ... in fact, I was more annoyed that the ultrasound was taking so long and that they wouldn't let me eat.
When I finally had my ultrasound, they were looking for one of two things that could have caused the bleeding: (1) placenta previa, where the placenta is too low and too close to the opening of the cervix or (2) an abruption, where the placenta peels away from the inside of the uterus. After the longest ultrasound EVER, they saw neither of these problems. That was great news, and we assumed we were going home. At this point, I was still desperate for breakfast (which I got, thanks to my husband's faithful pestering), and wanting to just get discharged already. But we still needed to see our OB, and by the time he came to see us, my contractions were back and I had seriously hemorrhaged again. He stood next to my bed, watching my contractions and the baby's monitor, and left for a few minutes. When he came back, he told us that the baby's oxygen kept dipping, and my continued bleeding suggested a problem that wasn't fixing itself. And then he dropped the c-bomb ... he told us that they were going to need to get the baby out while she was stable, which meant I was going to have an emergency c-section as soon as possible.
When he left the room to get things in motion, Josh and I turned to each other in tears. I remember wondering if it was my fault -- was it my diabetes? I had been saying for weeks how much I hated being pregnant and how I just wanted to meet her already -- did I cause something to go wrong? Josh stared at me with his wet ocean eyes and told me over and over that it wasn't my fault until I believed him. At that point, we had to stop grieving the loss of our birth plan and start preparing for what was about to happen (dun, dun, DUN!). There was no part of me that even considered fighting our OB about the c-section -- his 8% section rate (versus the nation average of around 35%) means that he only does surgery when it is absolutely necessary.
I met the anesthesiologist on duty, and he told me that I was going to have a spinal block. And then the nurses came in and gave me a catheter without any anesthesia  --- WORST THING EVER! IN THE WORLD! Especially because I was bleeding again, which just complicated the issue. They gave me a dose of steriods to try and help mature the baby's lungs as much as possible before birth, and then we just had to wait. Another woman, whose situation was more dire than ours, had her c-section first. To pass the achingly-slow minutes, Josh and I took a couple of pictures.

This sucks

Josh lookin' BA in his scrub cap

Trying to get pumped up
When my time finally came, they told me that they were going to have me walk into surgery. Not real sure why, because as soon as I stood up, I dumped blood all over the floor. So I laid back down, and they immediately rushed me out. Josh was left behind, because he couldn't be in the room while they were giving my spinal block and finishing the surgery prep.
This is the point at which Josh started to freak out -- he just described it as "the worst, most overwhelming feeling in the world." He just had to wait in the room with my blood on the floor while his two girls were somewhere else. Thankfully, two of his good friends showed up at the hospital at just the right time to be there for him while he waited.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...
It was simultaneously the worst part of the experience for me too. I was in the surgery room, seperated from Josh and terrified by the prospect of a spinal block. I had to sit on the edge of my bed, bent over while they prepped the site. I was so blessed to have a wonderful nurse who asked me about my 'boyfriend' (she couldn't believe I was old enough to be married) to distract me, and she let me bury my head in her chest during the actual procedure. Turns out, a spinal block is not nearly as bad as it sounds ... way easier than the catheter. They laid me down, and finished the preparations while the assistant to the anesthesiologist tried to give me another IV (which was proved to be difficult because I had lost so much blood). He was also extremely kind and reassuring, and he seemed so relaxed that Josh and I mused about whether he had helped himself to some anesthesia. After they put up the divider that kept me from seeing the surgery, Josh was finally allowed into the room. I was in tears again, out of fear and pain from the stupid IV. When they actually started the surgery, I kept telling Josh to tell me stories to keep me distracted. He didn't perform especially well under that kind of pressure, but it meant everything in the world to have him beside me. I kept waiting and waiting to hear something, anything, that would indicate Tiny Cash was ok. When I heard her sweet little cry it was ... perfect. And oh-so-reassuring. They brought my beautiful little firebird next to the bed, all swaddled and sweet, so that I could give her a kiss before they whisked her off to the NICU. Thus her nickname became a thing of the past, and we named her Phoenix (see THIS post in case you missed the story behind her name).
The end of the surgery was the worst part ... my baby was gone, I had no idea what was happening to her, and I could feel the tugging from being sewn back together again. During the surgery, they found that the source of the bleeding was an abruption that they couldn't see on the ultrasound. We are so thankful that I had the c-section when I did, since abruption have a fairly high mortality rate for both mom and baby!
When it was all said and done, we got taken back to the labor/delivery room, where Josh caught some much needed ZZZ's. An hour or two later, he finally got to go see Phoenix in the NICU. It felt like forever before I got to see her again, because they couldn't wheel my bed down there. When I was stable enough to sit in a wheelchair, they took me to officially meet my girl.

And our journey in the NICU began!

And, side note ... she is doing really well today -- they have weaned her oxygen down a little, and she was very alert for two PO feedings in a row!


  1. Thanks for sharing! I've been wondering! So did they call it an abruption? Was the warm wetness your water breaking? Or just blood? Glad to hear all went well... even though it obviously wasn't your ideal birth plan... you have healthy baby and healthy mom... and God's plan to boot!

  2. Oh whoops ... I forgot to include that we found out later that is was an abruption ... they just couldn't see it on the ultrasound