Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Non-Viable Baby

Almost a year to the day of last year, I randomly discovered I was pregnant again.  It truthfully was a random surprise. I'll let you in on a little secret though. I actually like taking those "pee on a stick" tests, even if I'm scared of the results.  It's got an element of surprise.  It's like a crystal ball, a vision of things to come. It's either going to make me ecstatic or it will feel like ice cold water is being poured through my veins.  That all depends on the state of my mental health at the time, of course. Either way, it's like a fortune teller of the future.

Like potato chips, taking one test is usually not enough.  If those lines appear, I have to follow through with at least 2 or 3 more "just to make sure." Hey, at 88 cents at Wal-Mart, they're a bargain. I have a whole drawer of tests saved in  Ziploc baggies from testing with each of my children.  Yeah, the grossness factor is quite high with that, but apparently I'm a hoarder when it comes to positive pregnancy tests.  At least they're in a bag and I'm not mounting them in the nursery, right? Don't ask me what I'm going to do with them either.  I haven't thought that out yet.

Anyway, back to last year.  Since I'm basically clueless, I decided to take one of those fun tests because I have no idea how the hell my body works. I shouldn't have been surprised that it was positive because I managed to not only pee on the stick but also on my hand and watch too.  Yep, I went there.  It was gross. Starting off with a test like that could only mean one thing...and why not?  Everything else in my life is chaotic especially when I need normality.

Truthfully though, I was shocked to see those pink lines.  Yes, yes.  I understand the science between how kids are made, but remember the part where I said that I have no idea how the hell my body works?  I attempted natural family planning. I obviously failed.  I thought I had got the hang of it, but those lines proved me wrong. In hindsight, if you don't know how your body works, natural family planning is really not a good form of birth control. It's basically playing Russian Roulette with an automatic.  It's only a matter of time before it catches up to you.  It really shouldn't have been any surprise that Numero Quatro would be joining our family. The concept of having four kids had me more than a little unnerved however.  Four kids meant that we have almost filled our mini-van.  You know things are getting serious when the next step in your family's future is a 15-passenger vehicle.

Within a few days though, I had things happening that had never happened before in my previous pregnancies.  I rushed myself to the hospital.  I was examined, probed, and ultrasounds were done. It was the middle of the night.  I was scared and alone in my room, shivering in my paper gown for what seemed like an eternity. The doctor finally returned.  She confirmed that she did see a sac on the ultrasound so I was "technically pregnant."  However, it appeared abnormal and things didn't look right.  She was very sympathetic but she didn't think the pregnancy was viable.  I suddenly felt like the floor had opened and I was in some sort of wonderland.  I was very confused and unexpectedly heartbroken. The doctor gave me some pain killers, and sheets of information about  my "threatened abortion." I  I left feeling numb and disoriented. I discovered in those moments how much I wanted this baby...like REALLY wanted this child.

Two miserable days later, I finally met with my real ob.  My appointment began with a resident examination.   She too prodded and probed me. I watched the back of the ultrasound monitor and wished that I could will it to show something other than what I had previously been told.  She finished and said that she agreed with the ER doctor.  She said the dreaded words. It truly was only an abnormal sac and I wouldn't have a viable child.

She quietly and quickly left the room to get her supervisor.  He was as rough as they come  After his not so gentle ultrasound, he confirmed what everyone else had said. Numero Quatro was not going to happen.  I laid on the table and cried for several minutes.  He left so I could process this news. I sadly got up to get dressed., but before I could actually finish putting on my clothes, Mr. Doom and Gloom came back to the room. I was still dressing as he awkwardly starting telling me what to expect about miscarriage. I finished putting my shoes on with tears pouring down my face. I felt defeated.

My family was in the waiting room, waiting to hear what my ob had to say.  I couldn't face the kids because I didn't want them to see how much pain I was in. Poor Ava.  I will always remember her chasing me down the hall and wanting to know if the baby was okay.  I was in so much pain and shock that I couldn't think straight.  I couldn't stand to break her heart so I closed her out. Unfortunately, my reaction was probably the opposite of what she needed. I just couldn't bring myself to say the words aloud.  I hopped on an elevator before she could see my face.  I'm fairly certain that Dave must have warned her that something was wrong because by the time they caught up to me, they were silent.

Then out of thin air, another doctor took me under his wing.  He took over my chart. He began a blood panel and brought me in for blood tests...lots and lots of blood tests.  Every day I went back to donate a vial just to see if my hcg numbers were rising at all.  After awhile, I had permanent marks from all of the needle pricks.

The numbers weren't great but they did rise. It gave me a small chance to hope. I felt like I was holding my breath and treading in deep water, but I was holding on to something at least.  He had thrown me a lifesaver while the other doctors had left me to drown.  Despite my weak numbers, he kept pulling for me. A week later, he brought me in for yet another ultrasound.  He was silent for a long time.  I expected the worst.  To my utter amazement, it never came.  After an excruciating amount of time, the doctor turned the monitor toward me and he pointed to what was my sweet little baby with a precious heart beating away.  I cried, but this time it was tears of joy.

However, this pregnancy would prove to be no cake walk.  One obstacle after another plagued our little fighter.  First we had the Fifth's Disease scare.  Oh, the benefits of preschool.  Noah brought that little gem home one day. For a child, Fifth's Disease is pretty much just that...a childhood disease. A little fever, a lacy rash and it's done.  However, expose an adult who has never been exposed to Fifth's Disease, especially a pregnant lady, well, it becomes a little more scary.  Or maybe that's just me because I'm the anxious sort. And of course I did the ultimate of the ultimate of wrong doings.  Never Google health problems.   Dr. Google will either diagnose you with Crones disease,  Celiac problems, or tell you that you have three months to live. Ok, so that might be a slight exaggeration but Dr. Google did predict Numero Quatro's imminent demise.  Off to the lab I went to drain more blood in my desperation to hear that I had become immune at sometime in my life. I waited on pins and needles for the results to come back.  The doctor told me that it was an "all or nothing" sort of wait.  If I was exposed, I'd be immune and there would be no problem.  If I hadn't been exposed, I wouldn't be immune and the baby would either make it or it wouldn't make it.  There was no in between.  My anxiety shot through the roof.  Every day I waited for word about my baby's future.

I waited.  I waited.  I waited some more.

 Wouldn't you know it?  The results returned one day but the doctor completely forgot to share the information with me.  I waited another long week until I met with him again.  When I asked him if the results had been returned, he sheepishly looked through my file and said that I was immune, and wouldn't you know it, that information was available the previous week.  I'm pretty sure he probably should have left out that last part.

Then came time for the anatomy scan.  This is the fun part of pregnancy as all women know.  The thought of whether or not you're going to be holding a little princess or a little prince in your arms in just a few short months is exciting.  We gathered our little family and headed into the ultrasound room so that we could see the first "real" shots of Baby Quatro.   Everyone knows that their little alien profile is the cutest thing ever. And how cute is it to see those little hands and feet kicking away at mom's bladder, ribs and kidneys?  These are the things that women dream about. This was it.  Our three little kiddos were going to see their little sibling in just a short while and of course mommy and daddy wanted to know if Ava was going to get that little sister she had been praying for.

 The warm gel was squirted on my stomach and the instant the ultrasound doppler was placed on my stomach, I could sense this baby was going to be difficult.

"Do you want to know the sex?" asked the technician.

"It's a boy," I said.  I mean, really.  How could I miss it?  We immediately had a shot of the goods.  He was not shy when it came to showing his gender.  In fact, he was quite proud to show himself off. The technician tried to get the measurements she needed but wouldn't you know it.  All our little alien wanted to do was prove that he was a boy.  We poked at him to move him into a different position and he retaliated instantly.  We prodded at him and got the same results.  I walked around, drank cold water, and tried lying on my sides.  Nothing.  This little stinker was giving us nothing but scrotum.  After about 45 minutes, the technician admitted defeat and told us we'd have to come back to get the measurements the doctor needed.  She handed us the pictures she had printed for us to take home.  I looked at the four pictures.  We had a beautiful picture of his heartbeat and 3 really clear shots where the tech had pointed out "it's a boy."  No cute little profiles, no hands or feet, no, nothing of that nature.  We got three penis shots.

We had to return three more times but we finally had all the measurements we needed.  Little Boy Quatro had all 10 toes and all 10 fingers.  We got to see his profile.  Things were looking good.

And then it all went downhill.  At 35 weeks, I happened to mention at an appointment that Quatro hadn't been moving as he normally did.  As a precaution, the Nurse Practitioner sent me over for a non-stress test.  I wasn't worried.  I had multiple non-stress tests with Ammon and they were always fine. I mean, really, I was expecting to have a couple of monitors on, wait for a few minutes, and I'd be on my way.  Nothing at all to be scared about.  I went over to the Perinatal Center and got hooked up.  I had really great nurses who were keeping me distracted but I couldn't help but notice that something was off.  Quatro didn't look right on the monitor.  His base heart rate was fine but there wasn't much change. We could hear him moving, we even buzzed him a few times, but his heart rate never really varied..

The Perinatal Team said that I needed further monitoring and this was beyond what they could do.  I was wheeled over to Labor and Delivery and got hooked up quickly.  Immediately, the nurses went into action.  I had IV fluids started.  Juice and water were shoved at me and I was told to drink as much as I could.  Still nothing.  Baby Quatro was as mellow as mellow could be.  I was reassured by his kicking but I eventually had to have the monitor turned away from me because he was starting to terrify me with his non-reactions (is that a word? It is now!)

My doctor was paged three times to be brought up to date on my condition.  She decided that it was imperative that I be admitted.  I didn't know it at the time, but the way that Quatro was acting is the first sign of fetal distress.  They wanted to keep us close so they could c-section him quickly if necessary.  The nurse that came to tell me that I would be staying was incredibly awful. I had no intention of leaving when I heard my baby was in trouble.  I was so worried about Quatro that I would have done cartwheels down the hall to keep him alive if that's what was required.   He and I had been through so much together through those 35 weeks that there was no way I would have left.  However, she approached my room with the worst possible way of explaining why I was staying.

"You can't go home," she said.  "I cannot guarantee if we let you leave now, you'll come back with a living baby."

Shock. Shock and more shock.  Who says things like that to a distressed mom?

I was wheeled upstairs and settled into a room.  I couldn't sleep after the fear of hearing my baby was in danger.  I was even more frustrated when the monitors slipped off my stomach and none of the nurses came in to fix them.  I laid there and worried that if they weren't really hearing his heartbeat, he could pass at any moment.  It was a frightening night.

Early in the morning, my doctor came in to read my strips.  She said that nothing looked incredibly alarming so she didn't want to c-section him immediately. She wanted to buy more time to let Baby Quatro's lungs  develop.  However, I began doing non-stress tests almost everyday.  Almost everyday he failed.  They began leaving me on the monitors for shorter periods of time and sending me for biophysical ultrasounds instead.  Those weren't much better.  He wasn't practicing breathing.  My baby was calm but not acting like he should.

We realized it was my medication that was making him respond the way he was.  The doctor told me that Quatro's life depended on me.  He told me that if I stopped taking it, the poor little man could go into withdrawals and he would most likely die in the womb. For the next two weeks, I cried.  I cried when I took my medicine.  I cried while I watched him fail his tests and ultrasounds.  I was hurting my baby.  I couldn't take much more.

Finally, two weeks after things being so awful, I called my doctor.  I was sobbing.  I was hysterical. I literally could not watch my baby fail his tests anymore, especially knowing that I was the reason behind his problems.  I talked to the doctor and she finally agreed to do his c-section a week early.  She rescheduled me for 38 weeks exactly.  I felt so much better knowing that an end was in sight.

October 18th was the big day.  It was a long busy day.  We had to find sitters for the kids, get everything in order with the hospital bag, and put the dog in a kennel.  I was nervous, but mostly for the baby.  I wasn't sure if he was going to have strong lungs or if he'd be in the NICU.  I was afraid that he was going to withdraw from my medication. The NICU team was ready and waiting. I was seriously frightened.

I finally got set up in my room while they gave me the details.  The anesthesiologist bragged that he was 2 for 2 with epidurals and spinals that day and so I had nothing to worry about.  Unfortunately, I would be the one to break that record. It took him five times to get that stupid needle in my back.  Finally I yelled at him to just put it somewhere because it was hurting and I didn't care anymore.

My doctor was great.  She didn't talk much, but she was very efficient.  She got to Baby Quatro very quickly.  He had a cord around his neck but once he was free, he was a screamer.  There was no doubt that his lungs were developed.  He was rushed off to be monitored  because of the medication and his complications he had been having for the previous three weeks. I didn't even get to see him as they whisked him out of the room, but I could tell he was tiny.

Eventually, a nurse returned to tell me that he had passed with flying colors.  Me, however, well, I was in not too good of shape.  I was taken into the recovery room where my blood pressure crashed and I needed shots of adrenaline to get it back up again.  The pain started almost immediately so the best nurse ever  found a doctor to prescribe two pills of Percocet.  In the recovery room, I began freaking out about the fact I couldn't move my legs.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to but I started to have a panic attack.  Enter doctor  and some medication. The nurse had another surprise for me.  The doctor had found a mass in my intestines during the surgery.  She had cut it out for me.  Not going to lie, that thing was quite nasty looking.  It was a large marble size ball of disgustingness.

But I digress.

 Eventually I got upstairs and got settled. FINALLY, they brought me my baby.  My non-viable abnormal sac had become a 6.67 pound infant.

We named him Emmett Martin Weston Holst.  He's proven to be a fighter.  He's also the most difficult infant we've had but we love him.  He's our little caboose.  We have no more kids in our future.  It's bittersweet that this chapter of my life is over, but the complications from Baby Quatro was an eye opener.

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