Monday, December 10 came, and the sun rose. It was our 7th wedding anniversary, and I was worried sick. We couldn’t head over to see our son until the doctor came to see HTBM. She had been over to see Leo again late Sunday the 9th, but the blood pressure was still a concern so we were grounded until the doctor made rounds. I hadn’t shared any of my research or worries with HTBM, but she could tell something was wrong. After I shared my concerns, she insisted I call over for an update on our son. This time, she was the rock “You’ll see – everything is okay,” she said.
I was able to speak to our nurse, who happily told me that the CO2 levels had started to drop overnight, and that he was having a great morning. As I was quickly becoming accustomed to doing, I started to cry like a baby. I knew enough that these positive signs on day 4 were what you wanted. He was going to be okay.
As expected, he kicked the RDS, and continued his progress with his breathing. HTBM started to pump breast milk, which enabled them to start small feedings with Leo. He definitely got his mom’s strength: it wasn’t long before he was off the CPAP and on to a high-flow nasal canula, which he quickly worked through down to a very low-flow. Finally, on December 18, just 11 days after being born at 29 gestational weeks, he pulled his nasal canula out twice in the span of a couple hours. After the second time, the doctor simply said, “Listen, he’s doing great, I think he’s just telling us he doesn’t need it. Let’s leave it out!”
And it never need to go back in. The kid decided he didn’t need the help anymore, and called the shots. I like that a lot. Can’t wait until he takes the training wheels off his bike by himself :) A few days later, the IV came out. Less wires, more Leo :)
Six days after coming off oxygen assistance, he was moved from the NICU to the Special Care Nursery. He no longer needed intensive care, and was called just a couple weeks after birth “the healthiest kid in the entire NICU.” So he was moved, on Christmas Eve. What a gift.
Two days later, and he continues to thrive at the Special Care Nursery. We hold him every day, mostly via kangaroo care. We both got to hold him today. He’s now 2 lbs, 13.5 oz and growing every day. He’s on full feedings and tolerating them beautifully. Mom got to give him a bath today. Dad’s becoming an expert with diapers (he’s not there yet). Instead of talking about oxygen saturation and lung development, we’re talking about hearing and vision tests, and car seats for him to go home in.
He’s not ready yet. He’s got to learn to eat, which he may be ready for in a couple weeks. For now, he just needs to eat and grow. But soon enough, it will be our turn to take him home.
People use the word miracle too often in my calculation. Getting a good grade on a test, or getting a promotion, to me these things don’t qualify. You either prepare, or you don’t. A miracle requires divine intervention, whatever you believe that to mean.
I am confident in saying Leo is a miracle. This kid started ‘life’ as a frozen blastocyst. He was our last resort, our last shot at IVF. Our last chance at a biological family. We weren’t going to do this anymore, and he was just our way to finish off our shared risk program. And then, he stuck! He kept growing. After all of these procedures, during which we were continually told we had such a great chance of that time being ‘the time’….this one no one held out much hope for. Not mom and dad, and certainly not the doctors. But it did work.
And he’s thriving as a preemie. He had to come early, but he’s nothing short of fantastic. He truly is our little miracle. Words can’t describe…..how much he is loved. If you could see HTBM with Leo….it’s just, there’s nothing else that matters. The love that woman has for our son has never been topped. It is, without question, the most wonderful thing I have ever witnessed or will ever witness. It’s, quite simply, perfect.
Our home life, our nursery, continues to be on hold. But it’s short-term. Leo will come home, and soon. Maybe 5 weeks. Everyone should have that opportunity. Our prayers continue to be with all those who battle infertility. It’s a battle that sometimes includes more than you think you can handle. It’s a battle that can get quite scary. But it’s a battle that is so, so, so worth it. Keep fighting. Fight through everything thrown your way. Never. Give. Up. Because one day, you will have this.
She almost literally couldn’t breathe. She had so much pressure in her abdominal cavity, that it was difficult to inhale deeply enough to get enough oxygen. Her belly, which 24 hours before had been the normal size for a 6 and a half month pregnant woman, now looked like a full term belly. She was placed on oxygen and the on-call doctor was called in. After what seemed like forever (but really was quite quick) the doctor arrived, assessed the situation, and called for an emergency c-section. I was relieved, to be honest, and so was HTBM. Friday, December 7, 2012, would be my son’s birthday.
They wheeled her into the surgical room to prep, and I changed into my scrubs. And then I waited. And the fear, and the overwhelming, just washed over me. I sobbed on my own, and then paced as my eyes leaked some more tears. I just wanted my wife to be okay. And I wanted my soon-to-be preemie son to be okay. There are no promises here. There are no guarantees.
I walked into the c-section and saw my beautiful life, obviously sedated but looking a whole lot more relaxed. Her breathing was lots more relaxed. And at that moment, I relaxed. It was only later that she told me that despite that sedation, she was worried she was only moments away from death.
The c-section went quickly. I was invited to stand and snap a picture with my iPhone of our little guy as they took him out of HTBM. And I nailed it – got a great one of our little Leo. Born at 2 lbs 4 oz, 15 inches and 11 weeks premature.
He was perfect.
I accompanied him to Children’s hospital, about a quarter mile walk through a tunnel from Abbott, to the best Level 3 NICU in the Upper Midwest U.S. This is why we wanted to deliver at Abbott, in case this NICU was needed. Well, it’s needed now. I walked with my son, as I thought of my wife. If I could have ever elected to be in two places at once….
Once I was confident that Leo was stable on his ventilator, I started to walk back to Abbott to find my wife. Halfway there, I saw her being wheeled in her bed toward me. She was okay, and was coming to see our son! She got to look into his face, hold his hand….it was perfect. She only got a few minutes before they wanted to get her back to Abbott.
The next couple of days honestly sucked. She was back on magnesium sulfate, as it would take some time for the blood pressure to go down and stabilize. And Leo had a very common problem with preemies like himself: Respiratory Distress Syndrome. His lungs had to start producing its own surfactant, and his lungs weren’t able to do that. He was taken off the ventilator after just 18 hours, but struggled a bit on his CPAP assistance on days 2 and 3. His CO2 levels in his blood, while not dangerous, were rising. They needed to go down, or he was at risk of being put back on the ventilator. Meanwhile, I did google research (horrible idea) about babies with RDS. While prognosis was much, much better than, say, 50 years ago, RDS remains the biggest killer of premature babies. I prayed in earnest the evening of 12/9…just prayed for a sign that everything would be okay. While HTBM was getting better, my little boy was struggling.
One more entry should do it. Thanks for sticking with me.
The morning of Monday, December 3 we saw HTBM’s doctor. We had the blood pressure checked first…155/92. High blood pressure? Check. Then, the protein urine test. Mild preeclampsia are levels from 300 to 5,000. Severe is anything over 5,000. Results? 14,000. That is not a typo. Protein in the urine? Check. Big time check. We were on our way to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN.
We weren’t worried at this point. From everything we saw, they’ll monitor the situation. The call will be made at the right time to deliver the baby. Mom and baby will be fine.
We got to the hospital, and the blood pressure was spiking big time. 200/105. HTBM felt fine, but it was a bit scary to see numbers that high. They got her admitted and wanted to start some blood pressure intravenously right away. Problem was, the swelling was so bad, they couldn’t see her veins. Literally couldn’t get an IV in her. The first person couldn’t, and neither could the second, third or fourth. My wife was looking bruised and bloody. It really sucked. They finally gave an oral BP medication, and obviously, finally got the IV in about 10 minutes later, after 90 minutes of effort. After a bit of time, they gave another BP medication, and then we saw the baby’s heart rate start to get sluggish. I started to panic and alerted the nurses, who simply squeezed more IV fluid into the IV, and we saw things normalize quickly. Scary moment #1 over.
As things normalized, they gave HTBM a betamethosone shot. They give moms this shot twice, 24 hours apart, when they expect you to have a premature baby. So we got shot #1. We were being told, ‘at least you got one shot in. Any amount of time with one shot will help.’ The ideal is getting to 24 hours past shot #2. They weren’t giving us much of a shot of getting that far. In fact, we were being told we wouldn’t make it to shot #2. One problem with that, though. They didn’t know HTBM. They didn’t factor in her strength.
HTBM was pretty loopy the rest of Monday 12/3 and Tuesday 12/4. She was on magnesium sulfate to help prevent seizures caused by high blood pressure. But the blood pressure was controlled, and her bloodwork was showing organ function that was more or less stable. Platlet counts were dropping a bit at first, but then actually increased and stabilized. Betamethosone shot #2 was given at 3 PM on Tuesday, 12/4. We still weren’t given much hope of getting to the optimum time of 3 PM on 12/5, but we were beginning to have some hope.
3 PM on Wednesday 12/5 came and passed. HTBM got to take a shower. She was off the magnesium sulfate and feeling relatively good. By Thursday, 12/6, we noticed her legs starting to de-swell. How odd! The doctor came in and started talking to us about an extended stay in the hospital. She said the preeclampsia could get much worse very quickly, and this could happen any time. Or, things could stay steady for several days or weeks moving forward. When we first checked in, the doctors were ready to perform a c-section within a matter of hours. Now, we’re being told natural delivery is possible, and it could be several weeks. Again, nobody factored in the strength of my beautiful wife.
But sometimes, strength isn’t enough. Preeclampsia would force our hand just hours later. The swelling that had been in HTBM’s legs started to move into her abdominal cavity and, yes, into her lungs. The night of Thursday, 12/6 she complained of pressure and shortness of breath, but she and the nurse believed it was gas and treated it as such. Then came a bathroom run at 3 AM…and we wouldn’t go back to sleep. It’s hard to sleep when you can’t breathe.
Next post coming quickly.
It of course, shouldn’t have. And yet it does, for many of us. This community consists of many women and couples who, for whatever reason, have an uphill battle in starting their family. For some of us, it takes just one or two fertility treatments. Others of us finally have success after trying for years. And others never succeed, or turn to other options such as adoption to build their families. In any case, none of it is “normal”. And in that absence of normalcy we found each other, and we build strength and character through that journey.
And for many of us, whether pregnancy happens slowly or quickly, or adoption is the route that is chosen, the end comes like any of those for normal people. Even if it’s difficult to get pregnant, many women experience a very normal, problem-free pregnancy. Others of us aren’t so lucky. This is that story; after all, why should this have ended normally?
HopeToBeMommy was one of those issue-free women for about 6 months. Almost the full two first trimesters. Some morning sickness, normal weight gain, no problems in any of the normal pregnancy tests for mom or for baby. Then, Thanksgiving happened. Actually, about a week before Thanksgiving, we started to see some added swelling for HTBM. We giggled about it, I gave her some light-hearted ribbing….we’d waited a long time to see ‘puffy’ HTBM. This was just a symptom of pregnancy, something we valued and wanted so, so much.
We enjoyed Thanksgiving with HTBM’s sister and her family, and then the first concrete symptoms of what was to come started to hit that night. I tweeted about this, calling it a stomach flu. That’s really what we thought it was, and her doctor did too. It got lots better within 24 hours, with a couple more bouts of nausea in the couple days afterward. But in retrospect, we can now see that she had no fever, no chills…nothing but extreme nausea and vomiting. And afterward, the swelling got much more advanced. In a matter of days, it seemed HTBM had gained 20 pounds….and was continuing to gain. And it was water weight that continued to swell her arms, legs, ankles, wrists, hands and feet….and eventually even her face, to very uncomfortable levels. It’s hard to explain just how swelled she was getting….but to explain, she couldn’t really bend her legs at the knee or ankle. She couldn’t wear any of her maternity pants anymore, resorting to yoga pants for work and church. And shoes….well, they were out of the question. HTBM now owned her first pair of crocs ever, and wore those or slippers wherever she went.
We started trying to find an answer to what could be causing such extreme swelling. It seemed she could be experiencing some ‘normal’ extreme pregnancy swelling….or she could have what we were learning lots more about. Preeclampsia.
We checked HTBM’s blood pressure a few times in late November and early December – all readings were okay. Symptoms seem to be able to vary for preeclampsia, but diagnosis depends on high blood pressure. So we waited. By Sunday, December 2, the swelling was horrible. And HTBM would experience occasional headaches and pressure. We had an appointment scheduled already for the next day, so we elected to wait until morning. But we were feeling that the blood pressure was very well rising….and that this could be our last night at home for a while.
I’ll continue in another post, hopefully to be posted in the next 30 minutes.
You know, I could blog more if work didn’t always keep getting in the way! I swear, I used to have some down time at work. Now it’s just sprint, sprint, sprint! All the time!
Anyway, if you do follow me on Twitter, you will know that we found out at our ultrasound that we are expecting a boy. I admitted to HTBM the day before the ultrasound that, although I truly didn’t care on gender, I was probably 51-49 leaning toward boy. There’s just something about a guy having a boy – I literally can’t wait. I just think of all the things I can do with him…..it’s going to be so amazing. The ultrasound tech was able to get a great pic of the penis within 90 seconds or so. He was literally flashing the camera, spread-eagle. I have to say, he probably gets that from me :)
My father in law was over to help build the crib and dresser this weekend. Everything went pretty well!
Please know that we have not painted the room at all yet – that is existing from the previous homeowner. I’ll have to share more when we have everything painted. Nevertheless, it’s pretty cool to have a crib in the house. Of course, I had to have Molly test it out for us (she was a bit confused):
Anyhow, we are off for vacation next week in Destin, Florida here in the U.S. We are really looking forward to one last getaway before our lives change pretty dramatically. And it’s a lot easier to leave when everything is aligned – we are probably ahead of schedule on baby prep, pregnancy going well….nothing to get in the way of a truly relaxing time. We are blessed – we always have been, but we really feel it right now.
Next ultrasound in two weeks – we’ll update at that time.
And so we are here. How did we get here?? Tomorrow we find out the gender of our baby….our little one that we will see arrive into this world in another 20 weeks. To say we’re excited about this is to massively undersell it. To say we care one bit about whether we see a penis or a vagina would be a huge lie. Boy or girl, we will be elated. Seriously….how did we get here?
Our story is a lot like many other people’s, so what I say won’t really catch a lot of you by surprise. You get the disappointing news so often….I don’t know. Eventually you start to think it won’t happen. I can’t sit here and say I ever lost hope. I always did think we’d have our kid. But I started to wonder a bit if it would be through adoption….which would have been great. Adoption is so awesome; it deserves so much better than being most people’s 2nd option. There is almost nothing more noble than giving a loving home to a child that needs it. But, much like many others, we wanted that shot to create our own kid. To know he/she shares some of that genetic code with us. And HTBM wanted to experience a pregnancy. These aren’t abnormal things….I wouldn’t even call them selfish. I just think it’s human nature. It’s simply human nature to want to have the ability to procreate, to not have that ability robbed from you by some odd occurrence of infertility in this world.
So while I didn’t lose hope, I started to lose some hope. Life paused for almost 5 years, while we saw friends and family alike achieve their family creation dream so easily. And in the era of Facebook and Twitter, while we found a community of people struggling like us, we were also exposed to even more acquaintances who would share kid and baby pictures ad nauseum, not to mention ultrasound pictures! (I still think we should post our follicle implantation picture and beat them all – ha!)
It’s really, really difficult to stay positive when it feels like the world is taking a shit on you. It’s hard to feel like you have a shot when you continually and consistently are told ‘no’.
But then, we heard yes.
And no matter how hard we worry, we continue to hear, and see, and experience, yes.
Sometimes the fortunes change. Sometimes the winds change direction; the hurricane force gale stops blowing in your face just when you think you’ll give ground and start going backward….and starts hitting you in the back instead. Just when you feel you couldn’t be any less lucky….
To those reading who haven’t experienced it yet – you must still believe. Good things will happen for all of us. We never believed we’d have to go through 5 years of hardship just to start a family. But we weren’t given more than we could handle. And so it is with you. I’m not going to promise the same result – perhaps you’ll start your family via donor egg, donor sperm, adoption, whatever. But I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter how you become happy….it only matters that you get there. Happiness comes in all forms, and if you want to be a parent, you should be one. And once that little one is in your arms, I’m positive the rest doesn’t matter. Blood, genes, whatever….it just wouldn’t matter. Love endures, and love is created. Right in that moment you connect.
In our case, with child #1, it will be our blood and genes. Perhaps child #2 will be via adoption….who knows? But for now, we couldn’t possibly be happier. And tomorrow, we’ll know whether we should start focusing on boy names or girl names. And in this moment, as I sip on some wine and finish this post, I literally couldn’t feel any luckier than I do right now. Seriously…..imagine that.