24 April 2007

Woman to Woman

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"Enduring health problems - either your own, a spouse's or a child's"



My experiences with poor health have revolved primarily around preterm labor and delivery.

My pregnancy with my first child, since I had nothing to compare it to, seemed normal. I am a busy body, and I certainly didn't slow down when I first conceived! But when I reached the 36 week mark and was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced, with Adriana's head engaged, my OBGYN raised an eyebrow. Actually both. Suddenly I was alerted to the fact that I was tired and sore and oh yeah, a little crampy. I delivered my daughter 3 days later, despite resting, not knowing I could have prevented it much earlier. She was in the NICU for just 4 days, but those 4 days were brutal. I delivered her at 10:26 pm and they whisked her off to run their tests. My husband stayed with her while I was wheeled on to recovery. I could not walk yet; I pushed for 3 hours around a very effective epidural to get her out. About 1:30 am he checked in with me and told me that she was on oxygen and may have pneumonia and was taking antibiotics and had had a bottle, but not really because she was not hungry and couldn't breathe well enough to suck and swallow. Um, hello? Where was my babymoon? I held a polaroid of my daughter close to my heart that night, worrying about how lonely she must have felt in that NICU, as I would not get to be with her until the next morning. My recovery continued to be slow. I was in a wheel chair for a couple days, but I think that feeling overwhelmed emotionally is really what stalled my resiliency. Adriana would go on to have severe reflux, strabismus, gross motor delays and receptive speech delays. The strabismus has required 4 eye surgeries, all before the age of 3. And her other delays were resolved with therapy by Kindergarten. She is now a thriving 2nd grader.

My second pregnancy ended early in miscarriage.

My pregnancy with my second child proceeded normally until at 27 weeks I went into full labor. My husband was out of town on business. It was perhaps the scariest moment of my life. I had a friend, also pregnant and due at about the same time as I was, take me to the hospital. Everyone scurried to the attention of 2 pregnant women walking through the doors hanging onto each other for dear life. I was immediately placed in a room, monitored and checked and I was indeed in labor and at 1cm and 75% effaced, with baby at 0 station. The OBGYN on call came in and briefly told me what they would do... first terbutaline, then magnesium sulfate - if necessary - to stop my labor. He was as assuring as he could have been in that situation... he knew it would be several hours before my husband could be with me and that he'd better try to at least put off delivery until then. The terbutaline proved 100% ineffective as I continued to have contractions every few minutes, and so they put me on the "mag". Let me tell you, this stuff is awful. AWFUL! It totally slows down all your bodily functions... to the point where I could hardly even control my throat well enough to swallow food. I felt like my body weighed a thousand tons, my face like it was on fire and my heart like it was beating, very slowly and loudly, inside my head. The magnesium also would have normally required that I be cathetered, but that only made me contract more, so I had to manage a bedpan, which when you feel somewhat paralyzed, is not an easy feat. My labor was successfully stopped, but I had to spend the next 7 weeks in bed, with only bathroom priveleges. I had a 3 year old daughter at that point, and she was shuffled off here, there and everywhere during the day while my husband worked and lied in bed. After work, he came home and took care of us, physically, and me, emotionally. Thankfully meals and house cleaning was covered by the Relief Society at church. I made it to 35 weeks before giving birth to Jonah. He spent a week in the NICU for a variety of small issues including respiratory distress, failure to maintain his body temperature, failure to gain weight, low blood sugar - those types of things. But we gladly took him home, all 5 lbs. 11 oz. of him, when the time came. My emotions at this time were extremely positive. Having been through the NICU ordeal with Adriana (although not nearly to the same extent) helped tremendously. I was not going to be a victim this time. I bounced back quickly and faithfully pumped every 3 hours, faithfully arrived at the hospital at 7am every morning to feed Jonah, and faithfully sat by his bed all day reading to him, singing to him, and talking to him. Jonah's future problems would include a heart murmur, severe reflux and allergies, speech impediments, and sensory issues. He is still in therapy, but expected to progress in school at a normal pace, and will be starting Kindergarten in the fall.

By the time I was pregnant with my third, all my doctors (which now included a high risk perinatologist) were on alert, from day 1. I was put on preventative restrictions around 20 weeks... no cleaning or lifting and 3 rest periods off my feet daily. I didn't have any productive contractions (I was always contracting though) or dilation until about 33weeks, when they again put me on complete bedrest (until 36 weeks). At that point I was 4cm and 100% effaced, but Drew was still high. I held out until 38.5 weeks this time! Being born full term, we did not expect Drew to have any delays or extenuating health problems. He was, however, diagnosed with hemiplegia or right side assymetry, when he was just a few months old. I notcied that his head was always turned to the left, and that he could not control his right arm when he rolled over (it would constantly get stuck underneath him). Later crawling and then walking became awkward as he could not bear much weight on his right leg. He began physical and later occupational therapy and is still undergoing those therapies today.

By now I am sure you are wondering why on earth I went on to conceive little Miss Sasha. All I can say is that she needed to come to this family. It was a feeling neither I or my husband could deny, and so we cautiously entered a 4th pregnancy. And we approached everything differently. I had the same set of restrictions around 20 weeks as I'd had with Drew, plus got progesterone shots weekly throughout the last half of the pregnancy. But I also decided that I needed to have a different mindset this time around. We wondered how much the stress of my pregnancies contributed to the health problems of our babies (as they'd all had issues, but not all been premature). And so came the idea of having a very natural zen-like approach to delivery. Throughout the weeks leading up to her birthdate, I meditated, practiced anxiety suppressing breathing exercises, met with a doula, and learned all I possibly could about natural childbirth (consuming around 8 books on the matter). My contractions were more subdued and my mentality was calm and tranquil. I just knew everything would be alright. And it was... it was the perfect ending to a long, difficult-to-endure journey to complete our family. She has a beautiful birth story, which you can read here. She is 9.5 months old now, and with the exception of reflux and a recently resolved allergy to dairy, she's perfectly healthy in every way.

As hard as my pregnancies have been, I'd go on to have more children if I felt it were right. Nothing has brought me more joy than they have. From those first little flutters in the womb to the pitter patter of feet all over my home, I am happy. It's been 100% worth the enduring trials that have accompanied their arrival.

Please sign Mr. Linky, both here and over at Morning Glory's, and I'll catch up with you all as soon as I get a chance!!!


18 comments:

Morning Glory said...

Lei, I'm sorry to hear you've got illness at your house. I hope they get well soon.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I completely understand. I didn't think I would get mine written on time either.

I hope your kids feel better soon and that you have the strength to get everything done you need to get done!

Jen said...

Sorry to hear your kids are sick!

K 3 said...

Truly amazing story. For me, the days at the hospital was the hardest, even though rationally speaking, its the best place for a baby who is having any trouble to be... but its hard to rationalize when you are going through it! Well at least our babies are doing much better today ... and tomorrow will be sunny as well! God willing.

Montserrat said...

I am in awe of mothers who go through so much to have their little ones. You are an inspiration!

MommyK said...

No one can really understand the heart ache of having a premature baby and having to leave him in the NICU and go home emptyhanded. I've read that lot of mothers' whose babies are born early feel they've been cheated out of those first few weeks.

I thought my pregnancies were hard, but now I see I had it pretty easy. Bless you for remaining positive through four challenging pregnancies!

Morning Glory said...

I'm back to say I was so touched by this post. Your experiences were monumental and your determination and devotion regarding your family is beautiful!!

Tracey said...

Well, they've all got incredible birth stories, don't they? I'm so glad they all delivered late enough to be so healthy (problems listed aside...) And that you were so brave to go on to have your fourth!

Jen said...

That must have been so heartbreaking to leave an infant in the NICU instead of bringing her home. Thanks for sharing your story.

Florinn said...

This is very touching.

Thanks for visiting my post today.
-Florinn

Kristen said...

Wow. I knew nothing of all the difficult pregnancies you had! What amazing stories!! You have more courage than I to go on to have more! I admire you even more now! And your family is beautiful!!

An Ordinary Mom said...

Lei, you are an inspiration to all of us. We all have trials we have to endure, but you have endured them so well. You are simply amazing and I know God is proud of you, too!

Sallie said...

I'm so sorry for the problems you've endured. I too had miscarriages but have 4 beautiful blessings from God and am so grateful for them! Maybe I will participate now that I know about your writing challenge..

Judith said...

It's no wonder you're the example of such a loving/serving Christian. We are so fortunate to know you.

Nicole said...

What a beautiful post, thanks for sharing.

Amber said...

You are inspiring. I honestly can't say if I had serious health problems with my pregnancies that I would keep having more. A neighbor is NEAR DEATH ever time she gets pregnant and keeps doing it. Her resolved is STRONG!

I'm pretty healthy but I could write a NOVEL on all my hubby's health problems...

Susie said...

I'm sure you look on each of these beautiful children as a special gift from God, as indeed they are.
Touching post..
:)

Julie said...

Wow. It always amazes me to hear stories like that. Your babies have a wonderful mother to do all that for them.