August has started out well. So much so, that Paul and I think it may turn out to be the month that rights the craziness of this year. I think it’s time to take a look back on this insane year so far. Doing so may be cathartic. Usually I find writing to be. As well, I haven’t had much time to write this year. This is a catch-up, so to speak and it’s a long one.
I realize some of this post will be tinged with a little self-pity and self-congratulation. Oh well, I think I deserve them. ;) And you may too, if you read on.
At the very beginning of January, we got to see Little One during a detailed ultrasound. It was thrilling.
Then my mom broke her hip, just weeks before her 80th birthday. She also had a close-call with a blood clot after being discharged from the hospital. Thankfully, and because she’s such a trooper, she was already moving around quite well by her birthday. I celebrated it with her. That part was great, minus getting stranded for a day in NYC because of one of its many snow storms.
I found out about my mom’s hip when I was en route to the hospital myself. I had a bladder infection that gave Paul and I a small scare, since I had a hint of spotting with it. Any spotting when you’re pregnant is terrifying. However, I got treated at the hospital the very day I realized I had the infection.
All in all, January foreshadowed what was to come. Hospitals were going to play a big role in 2011.
February started with a bam, literally. One morning while walking across the street on a green light, I was hit by a car. I haven’t written about the accident until now for a couple of reasons: too many other things happened soon after it and my memory seems to want to protect me from recalling. What I remember is mostly out-of-body, more like I’m watching myself rather than experiencing the accident. Interesting how the mind works.
I recall vivid pieces, like seeing the car (which was making a left turn) coming right at me. Thankfully, I had a split second to think “Baby!” and to curl my tummy up and hit the hood with my arms. Also thankfully, the driver was pounding on the brakes as she was hitting me so that she didn’t run me right over. I made sure to fall to my right side on the road, protecting my belly.
Then I remember getting up and holding my belly and crying and yelling about my baby while searching for my left shoe, which I guess I got knocked out of. One of the fabulous witnesses got a blanket from her car and wrapped me up after getting me to sit on the curb. A woman asked if I wanted her to call 911. Uh yeah! I realized later that it being the States, she was worried about bankrupting me, not knowing if I had insurance. I called Paul to come, since I was a block from home.
A firetruck arrived first and a debonair fireman assessed my injuries and flirted with me. Then a paramedic was talking to me and perhaps a policeman too. The paramedic asked me every other minute if I was having cramping or bleeding. I knew I wasn’t cramping, but I couldn’t tell about bleeding and I felt so worried, scared, and panicked. Then I was being put on a stretcher and I could see that there were people EVERYWHERE. Suddenly I was staring at the sky, still getting prodded with questions, and then I was looking at the roof of the ambulance. And then Paul was there and he could ride with us to the hospital.
I remember feeling like I was in one of the hospital shows from TV. I had a trauma team assess and work on me. The hardest moment is when they told Paul and I that they wouldn’t try to save James (who we only knew as Little One) if I started miscarrying. He was 23.5 weeks then and not considered viable. But they did an ultrasound and he looked fine. I’ve never felt such relief. I wouldn’t let them x-ray my ankle for fear of harming him. I was put under trauma observation for six hours. We made it out the other side.
However, we had to go back to the hospital the next day to get my ankle looked at. It had hurt so much during the night that I had started shaking when I had got up to go to the bathroom. We learned that I had a really bad sprain. Amazing what wrapping it and crutches did. Except I was a pregnant woman on crutches. Picture that. Yes, laugh. I used them only one day for fear of injuring myself more.
The rest of the month I tried to heal up and was grateful that Little One was still inside me. However, on the last day of February, my preterm labour began. I’ve already written a post about James’ early, unanticipated arrival. That was the second time we almost lost him.
But we didn’t lose him. So amazing. I remember after trying to hold him in for 36 or so hours, I finally had to resign myself to fate. When they said I had to deliver by emergency c-section, I never believed I would have the son I do today. We are so lucky to have him. He survived his crazy, early delivery into the world on March 2nd. My little fighter.
March was a bit of a blur. We spent most of it in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with James. I’ve never felt so awful in my life. I’ve learned from talking to other moms that having a c-section after going through full labour is the worst. It is. I hurt so much. I was so weak. And I couldn’t be – James needed me. Plus I also had all of the usual post-pregnancy hormones.
Near the end of March, I found out that I had thrush (a yeast infection) in my breasts due to all of the antibiotics pumped into me for the c-section. Essentially it feels like shards of broken glass in your breasts. Yeast gets into the milk ducts. Wonderful.
However, we had amazing news on the 2nd last day of March. James’ head, chest, and abdomen scans looked clear. More relief.
All of that was pushed aside on the last day of March – the second worst day of my life. That’s the day James started turning grey. The doctors assured me his vitals were good and showed me brave faces. But I could see them having worried huddle sessions. And I could tell that something was terribly wrong with James. He wouldn’t grab my finger. He stared at me with sad eyes. Awful, awful.
In the wee hours of April 1st, they tested James for meningitis. Paul and I waited, so scared. The results were negative. The infection hadn’t crossed to James’ spinal fluid but it had crossed to his blood. He had a urinary tract infection (UTI) that had gone septic. I thought we were going to lose him. Everything I had read about sepsis mentioned death. And a part of me couldn’t believe that we’d be blessed enough to survive a third close call. The doctors reassured us that since it was caught so early, they believed James would make it. My little miracle did. He looked and acted like himself after two days of his antibiotics course.
The rest of the month was fairly uneventful. Thank God. I continued to battle thrush. It got worse because I had to take more antibiotics. They discovered I had a crazy-acting bladder infection from having a catheter during my c-section.
Near the end of the month they confirmed that James had inguinal hernia and would need surgery when he was larger.
May wasn’t bad, all things considered. James was still in the hospital though. He progressed wonderfully – he got off of oxygen, went into an open-air crib, and started taking all of his feeds by breast or bottle. However, his apnea and bradycardia episodes weren’t stopping. Because of them, he couldn’t come home with us.
I continued to fight the fight with thrush.
He was diagnosed with reflux. Yes, all babies have it, but his was considered a tad more severe than the standard fare. Since he had stayed in the hospital longer than expected, he had his hernia operation before he came home.
Right before James’ operation, Paul got a nasty cold. We actually were grateful that James was still in the NICU. He wasn’t home with the germs. For those of you who don’t know, germs are worse for preemies than full-term babies. Germs are why Paul and I have to be more neurotic than we’d like. Although James’ lungs are pretty good for a preemie, they still are at a deficit. Even if he catches a simple cold, chances are high he’d have to be re-hospitalized.
I also got the cold for a day and couldn’t be there for James’ operation, which made me really sad. But better me than him.
And finally, he came home!!! June 14th was the day. It was fantastic to have our little family altogether.
But he was so unhappy at home at first. He was still recovering from his operation. As well, he got the nastiest diaper rash. Most likely it was from the operation’s antibiotics. He spent most of the time wailing.
Just when he was getting back to being his sweet self, we had to take him to the ER for a fever. He had to have his second spinal tap to test for meningitis again. Ugh. We learned that he had another UTI. This one stayed localized though, and didn’t go to his blood or his spinal fluid. We were in the hospital another week. Paul and I felt like we had broke our baby.
We went to UCSF to have James tested. Even one UTI for a boy is weird. The tests showed that nothing anatomically was wrong. Yes!! His infections were bad luck. Most likely the second one was a result of some of the bacteria resisting the initial antibiotics.
Things got bad on the breastfeeding front. I still had thrush. I don’t think any other physical ailment has caused me to meltdown. Twice. But the meltdowns were also due to James’ attachment to the silicon nipple shield I had been given in the NICU. A nipple shield is used to help a preemie who has a really small mouth still breastfeed. Although James was big enough to lose the shield, he didn’t want to. The shield was stopping him from getting enough milk and it was killing my milk supply. I had to pump after every feeding, meaning I was sometimes only getting 45 minutes of sleep between feeds during the night. I was spending most of my time doing all things milk-related – either feeding or pumping or sterilizing pump parts. I also was worried that soon I wouldn’t have enough milk for him and we really didn’t want him to be on formula.
Dare I say, August has started out remarkably. Paul is afraid I’ll jinx us. Let’s hope not.
Last weekend, after much strategizing, James breastfed without the nipple shield and has never looked back. I can’t convey how removing one tiny piece of silicon has so greatly changed my life. He’s getting enough to eat, I’m making enough for him to eat, and I’m getting some sleep too. As well, after five months of trying most everything, it looks like my thrush is finally gone. I think/hope/pray that it is.
And on the topic of sleep, James has proven to be even more of a super baby. He’s started to sleep in longer stretches at night. He’ll go three or so hours without wanting to eat. It’s incredible.
He’s in such a good groove that we’re thinking of taking a short road trip at the end of the month. We wouldn’t have even thought of that two weeks ago.
It’s been an incredible journey to get to today. The first leg was very scary, but after the initial dark days we learned to be amazed and grateful. We are thrilled to have James – our million-dollar, miracle baby.
I have to say that there are still dark clouds on the periphery of our family. This year has been a trying and hard one for some of my favourite people. A couple of my dear friends are trudging through difficult days. It all makes my light have some shadows still. If anything, I have perspective.