Thursday, August 14, 2014

Out of the Woods

110 hours.

That's how many hours we spent in the Palm Beach Children's Hospital.
That's how many hours I spent wondering if we would ever come home.
If he would ever get better.
Wondering, why him? Why me?

It started off as a stuffy nose, that escalated into a slight fever, that turned into a high fever and a baby that wasn't responding to my voice. I made the decision to take him to the ER, and then I doubted myself when we were sitting there for hours and he seemed perfectly fine. But over the next few days, his fever got worse, some nights going above 103. Tylenol only helped so much and we were starting to exceed the 5 doses per day maximum. I didn't know what would happen once we reached that point.

But we never found out, because his fever disappeared overnight, just the same as it appeared in the first place. I though, that's it. We're going home. Then he stopped being able to breathe. Nurses came in and other, more specialized nurses were called, and words were thrown around like rapid response and PICU and intubation. I cried. I was confused. We were getting better! I said, though no one was listening. I was convinced they were exaggerating. But watching Rory struggle to take a breath convinced me that everything was not okay, that maybe it never would be. There were breathing treatments and steroids ordered, respiratory therapists visiting every three hours of the day and night, nurses checking his temp and status every hour. No sleep, no privacy. A baby that would cry and cry and couldn't nurse and therefore couldn't be comforted. Me, completely unable to soothe, to help. My mom, strong for the both of us because I sure as hell couldn't be.

Blood was taken everyday, numbers coming back too low or too high and meaning absolutely nothing to me. A blood transfusion was suggested, and I agreed, because what else could I do? Except his IV started leaking and they tried to find another but his veins were so small inside of his tiny little body and there wasn't one single nurse in the whole hospital who could find one. We know- they all tried. While I paced the halls and listened to him scream, I cried, and I'm sad to say that I didn't pray- I yelled at God, inside of my head, of course. I asked him why he couldn't just cut him a break. As it turns out, that night was the best night in the hospital. Despite the fact that his arms and hands were covered in failed attempts for an IV, we got to snuggle together completely wire free. We had a whole 9 hours with nothing between us. He slept on my chest, in one of those terribly uncomfortable pull out chairs, but it was the most peaceful sleep either of us had while there.

Then morning came, and it was time to try for an IV again. An angel nurse got it on the second try and all I could think was, where were you last night? I was prepared for a bad day, for more of an inconsolable baby, but at some point during the night, Rory had made a turn for the better. I didn't want to get my hopes up- it had happened once before and we were thrown back into the fire quick. But he seemed to stay better all day, and the transfusion only helped him even more. Then I heard the words I'd been wanting to hear all week.

"If he stays stable, you can go home tomorrow."

I almost didn't believe them. Even the next day, when the discharge papers were in my hand, I still didn't believe it. I was afraid that I'd step out of them room and into a trap- just kidding! We need more blood! But we made it downstairs and outside, and we both got our first breath of fresh air in five days.

And I thought to myself, It's over. We made it.

Simple as that.

Except, I can't help but be afraid that we're not out of the woods just yet. I'm full of fear- afraid that he'll get sick again, afraid to let anyone touch him or hold him or get too close. I'm afraid to leave the house with him. I sleep with one eye open, afraid that he'll stop breathing. I don't know when I'll be able to get over everything, or if it's as easy as that. I can't help but wonder if maybe this isn't just a one time thing. If maybe we'll spend our lives worrying about Rory. I don't know how to convince myself that he's okay, and I don't know how to stop seeing him the way he was in the hospital.


After we got back to the house, the skies opened up and covered everything in a sticky, warm fog, and as the sun broke through the clouds, it set the world on fire. The clouds were glowing in hues of orange and pink, gliding across the sky in puffs and swirls. We went outside and breathed in the wet air, the four of us finally together. I could still feel the fear inside of me- I think it'll always be there, festering, begging to be remembered, but Aubrey was running in circles around me and Rory was snuggled up in his daddy's arms and I thought to myself,

It's over. We made it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Be Alright

Today while Rory and I were sitting in a wheelchair, being pushed from one end of the hospital to the other, I could feel the stares. I could hear the whispers.

That poor baby. 
Such a little thing. 
I wonder what's wrong. 

I don't blame them. When I saw sick babies or children, I would try to out myself in their parents shoes. I would think, I don't know what I would do. Well, now I know.
I know that I would cry, a lot. I would hold my sweet baby and touch his little cheek and ball my eyes out because it just hurts. I know that I would be angry and say, why me? I know that I would think about the what if's. I would think about how people pray for their babies to get better all the time and sometimes they just don't. I would wonder if we'd be them, or if I could believe everyone when they say he'll be just fine.

The worst part of it all is the not knowing. The well, it could be this, but it could also be that. When you don't know the problem, you don't have a solution. Right now they're just throwing everything at him and hoping something works/gives us answers.

Heel pricks
Blood draws
Urine samples
Breathing treatments
Blood transfusions

There's talk of PICU's and pulmonologists and hematologists and all of these words that I don't quite understand. There's information on top of information and so many possibilities that it's hard to wrap my mind around one single thing.

And then, at the end of the day, there's the chance that it's just the biggest, nastiest cold on the face of the planet. I'm praying really hard for the latter. And thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughts. I've honestly felt them, even though this whole situation feels helpless. His fever has gone down and stayed down, which was one of our main concerns, but then a wrench was thrown into the mix when he stopped being able to breathe properly. Then something like this happens


And even though this is far from the way he's been feeling, the rare smiles are made all the more precious because of it. But this is the picture I'm choosing to show you because to me, it means hope. And I have to hope everything is going to be alright.

It just has to be alright.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Baby Story

I seem to have a lot of ideas in my head that very rarely pan out the way I envision. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but I guess I'm kind of hard headed in that sense. My plan all along was to bring the computer to the hospital with me so that I could jot down Rory's birth story right away. That didn't happen. In fact, I hardly thought about anything other than how tired I was and how in love I was. Now here I am, boxing 3 month clothes because they're too small, and I still remember his birth like it was yesterday. It went a little bit like this...

I had been having intense Braxton Hicks contractions pretty much from 30 weeks on. It was the same with Aubrey. But unlike with Aubrey, my due date came and went and I was still pregnant. Cue the violins. I was big, it was the end of May and scorching hot, and I had a toddler to run after. Despite all of that, I was comfortable, okay with the fact that Rory was still cooking. I didn't feel the need to rush anything.

Until I went into actual labor.

My birth plan was to go natural. No membrane stripping, no drugs, no water breaking. Just let him come when he wants to come. Sunday the 25th, as I was sitting in the newest X-Men movie with the husband and having intense contractions every ten minutes, I whispered into the packed theater, "This is it." I could barely pay attention, shifting every so often to try and relive some of the pressure my too tight maternity pants were creating. They stayed consistent until we got home...and then I went to bed. Twenty minutes apart. Thirty minutes. I woke up the next morning with nothing to show for it.

So Monday, the 26th, when it happened again, I tired not to get my hopes up. I went to bed expecting to wake up not in labor. What I did not expect was to wake up at 1am and still be in labor. The contractions were five minutes apart and strong enough to keep me from sleeping. "Babe, this is it." I poked him until he woke up and talked until 3am, too excited to go to sleep. When I realized that they weren't getting any closer together, I let Todd go back to sleep and ate a peanut butter and jelly. Around 5am, still awake and very much in labor, I moved myself into the living room and sat on my exercise ball. I was tired, literally falling asleep sitting up, and I was in pain, the contractions getting stronger but not more frequent. At 6am my dad comes waltzing into the living room to leave for work. He looks at me, looks at the ball, and says, "Guess I'm not going to work today?"

We sat together for the next hour or so, him periodically rubbing my back while I tried my hardest to breathe through each wave of pain. Still five minutes apart at 7am. The husband finally wakes up, joins me in the living room. 8am we decide to call the midwife- no answer. She always answers her phone. We call her again at 9, and again at 10. Still no answer. Still in pain. Tired and hungry and nauseous and just so tired. 11am and she finally calls back, tells us to head over to her office to check me. And you know what she told me? 2cm dilated, 90% effaced, baby's still high. So discouraging to hear after 10hrs of labor.

And so I made a decision that I thought I would never make, but that I realized I was at peace with. We checked into the hospital at 12pm and told the nurse we would be needing an epidural. I was nervous, but okay. When I gave in to the epidural with Aubrey, I felt like I had failed myself and failed him. Even after the 30+ hrs of natural labor, I felt I hadn't done enough. But this time I had the feeling that I was doing what was best for us. I labored for another hour on my own, per my request, before the nurse checked me. I told her not to tell me how far (or not) dilated I was, but Todd told me anyway. 4cm, effaced, baby's still high.

So she sent for the anesthesiologist and we waited while I tried desperately to keep my hands and body from shaking with nerves. A little side note- I hate needles. I hate the idea of that giant needle going into my spine, which was almost enough to keep me from getting one at all. But as each contraction became more intense and more frequent, I knew that I'd throw aside my fears for comfort. And I'm so glad I did.

The rest was smooth sailing- Rory's heartbeat was strong and steady, my contractions were consistent with the help of pitocin and I didn't feel anything until I needed to.

8pm- 9cm, water still intact. Midwife asks if I want my water broken, since it's most likely the cause for the baby still being so high. "Let me know if you feel the urge to push," she says after it's done. I'm so nervous/excited I can't stand it, and when just ten minutes later I feel the urge to push, I almost chalk it up to impatience. "I really need to push!" I finally decide, and sure enough, it's time to push.

But of course, it's not that easy. Rory is posterior and does not want to come out. A half hour passes, and I decide I can't do it. I'm tired, I'm hyperventilating. There are too many people in the room. I kick everyone out and keep trying to GET THIS BABY OUT. I give up, more than once. I yell at the midwife that she's lying, that I'm not almost there and he's stuck in there forever. I JUST CAN'T DO IT. I see the look the midwife and nurse pass between each other. Todd's hand tightens around mine, they give me oxygen. Another half hour passes and still he's not out. I fall asleep between contractions, so physically and mentally exhausted that I don't even care what happens at this point.

And then finally, finally, I feel his head break free and then the emptiness that follows the release of his body, and then he's on my chest and everyone's back in the room and I'm crying and he's crying and my mom's crying and he's finally here. I have two babies. I hold him and I squeeze his slippery body and I cry some more because, let's face it, I cry watching Lifetime movies. And all the pain and the waiting and the pushing was totally worth it because his little body fits perfectly into mine and he latches right away and when they take him to do baby stuff I keep my eyes on him the whole time, unwilling to let him out of my sight for one second.

When he's back on my chest and Todd is hovering over both of us like a big snugly papa bear, I realize that I am whole.