38 days in the hospital with my baby

 

 

If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands? ~ Milton Berle

I’ve wanted to write you ever since I landed in the hospital. But as being sick goes, things were just too intense to do anything other than take life moment-by-moment. I apologize for taking forever to write you via email to explain. As any new parent can attest, your time is not your own, and you need six arms.
This newsletter will update you on what happened over the last 2-1/2 months. I haven’t shared this level of detail anywhere publicly. Several images of our experience are below, which will help capture the journey.
In short, our baby girl was born six weeks early at very low birth weight. Together, we spent 38 days living in the hospital. We never knew anything was wrong, for baby or me, until it was a very critical situation. No drama there or anything . . . !

This is me with Izabella just a few hours after her birth. I’m swabbing her mouth with my colostrum, which she loved.

**
Although I’ve shared some of this story on social media, many people may have missed it. So, here is a bullet-point recap of what happened and where we are now:
  • Monday: Midwife recommended we obtain an ultrasound, as my abdomen measured 4 weeks behind schedule.
  • Friday: Our midwife called us immediately after our ultrasound. She asked us to cancel our weekend plans (we were heading off for a meditation retreat in silence). She urged us to head to UW Medicine, telling me we would likely have to deliver the baby soon. You can imagine our shock. We were 34 weeks, 0 days along. Baby still needed time to cook, right?
  • The perinatologists at UW Medicine in Seattle diagnosed me with severe pre-eclampsia. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to give birth, and it worsens as pregnancy progresses.
  • At UW Medicine, they swiftly began treatments for extremely high blood pressure. This would help prevent seizures (from the hypertension). It also led to intense dizziness and vomiting whenever I got out of bed, as well as the feeling that I was on fire.
  • We learned that our baby’s growth had been restricted for an unknown length of time. She measured between the 1st and 3rd percentiles in growth, making her extremely small for her gestational age. This was due to problems with the placenta, which were not well understood.

  • Doctors said their best hope was to hold out on an emergency C-section for 48 hours, allowing enough time to help develop her lungs with steroids.
  • There was concern for liver failure in me, a common occurrence with pre-eclampsia. There was concern for kidney damage due to the treatments preventing seizure. I have one kidney.
  • After 48 hours of steroids, the OBs began a stress test to assess baby’s tolerance of contractions. She passed the test, which cleared us for attempting a vaginal delivery.
  • Next, the OBs induced my labor, something that had previously been on my top priorities of interventions to avoid. (But all my best laid plans were dissolved by this point anyway.) They allowed me to labor, with continuous fetal monitoring, for a few hours (honestly, I lost all track of time). As soon as the baby showed signs of stress that she couldn’t recover from contractions, they immediately moved me to the operating room for the cesarean.

 

My husband and sister were allowed in the operating room for the Cessarean. Miraculously, my sister moved her family to Seattle area the day after my hospital admission. This was lucky, as we didn’t have any family in the area before she moved there.

  • I managed to negotiate for a vaginal seeding and delayed cord clamping. (This is it’s own story). They gave us about 1 minute to prepare the vaginal swabs (this is so baby can get some of my microbes she would miss by not going through the birth canal. This is important for her immune system, which may have a lifelong impact. However, practices to swab /seed an infant after cesarean are still uncommon.)

 

  • I’m not going to lie: by this point, I felt intense fear about the cesarean. There were a lot of things that could go wrong, and it was my very last option. I had to totally let go of control and totally surrender to surgeons and residents. My husband and sister were in the operating room with me.

  • LABOR DAY: Izabella Pearl safely emerged. She had some breathing distress and required a CPAP. She promptly moved into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care.

  • The next 30 days would involve baby stabilizing and growing sufficiently in the NICU. Baby stayed on feeding tubes and several monitors during that time. The NICU staff was great with using my colostrum and breast milk as her primary food during this time.

Two days old 9.6.2017

  • After my hospital discharge, I stayed at the NICU most nights, though I found this to be a very challenging place to spend 24 hours. The hospital only offered a small bed/couch for sleeping, so Michael slept at home and visited us during the day. There was one bathroom/shower/fridge for 48 NICU families. We all felt challenged, and we also supported each other.

This is my hubby moving me into the hospital.

  • I met my inner mama bear, and I learned to defend my cub . . . even in especially in the NICU!
  • My body and face swelled enormously with this experience, which took a few weeks to resolve. I didn’t have clothing large enough to fit! (This left us with some hilarious stories to share!) My blood pressure required high-dose medications. I’ve finally weaned off of these medications.
  • Friends and family graciously brought me home-cooked meals every day, allowing me to remain with the baby and worry about one less element in life. Let me tell you, this gesture was one of the kindest ever, and helped keep me sane. I highly recommend offering it to anyone in need of the support, as there is nothing quite like having a meal made with love when you’re super overwhelmed. (Or, offer rides, house cleaning, help with shopping, or whatever else you can manage.)
  • Did I mention that our house was in full-on renovation mode when I admitted to the hospital? It was in no condition for a new baby to move in! Family came over to help finish our renovation, set up our house to bring the baby home. Amazing!
  • About a week before discharge, our laundry room flooded and totally damaged the floor. It felt like starting renovation all over again – yay!

**

  • In total, we were at the hospital for 38 days. Gratefully, my husband is an ICU nurse, which helped us navigate critical phases of the hospitalization. It made my experience more comfortable.

This was our first walk outside of the hospital.

  • Now that we are home, baby is eating well and charming us like crazy. My breast milk supply is abundant beyond my wildest dreams – our deep freezer is halfway filled with my pumped milk!

This is my haul of frozen milk just from what I pumped while in the hospital. Pumping was work, but I’m sure grateful my breasts could rise to the challenge with an abundant supply!

  • Bella needs every bit of milk fortified as she will be catching up in her growth for a while. Because of her restricted growth and early entrance to the world, she missed opportunities to absorb crucial vitamins, minerals and protein.

We had to fortify my breast milk with protein, minerals, vitamins, and probiotics. She also couldn’t suckle well yet. And the probiotics are to support her microbiome development, which will be different due to the cessarean birth. =0(

  • A preemie is not a small baby. Preemies have a lot of catch-up to do that they couldn’t do inside of the womb, and their needs are usually more intense than that of a full-term baby.

  • Izabella continues to strengthen in her ability to breastfeed. Meanwhile . . .
  • My new occupation is pumping breast milk and cuddling a tiny little baby. I love my new job! =)

**

 

The image above is the night before I was admitted. We went to Northwest Hospital for fetal monitoring, and were sent home with a clean bill.
Many people asked what symptoms I had that clued us in to the pre-eclampsia. The answer is that the symptoms seemed so normal for the third trimester that we overlooked them:
  • Swelling in my feet and face;
  • Intense fatigue and feeling somewhat weak. I started checking my blood sugars 2-4 times/day;
  • Shortness of breath with more difficulty climbing stairs;
  • Vision changes, such as sparkles and orbs in my vision (this is a sign of a swelling brain).
  • Headaches
The biggest clues were these:
  • The baby was moving less, and I went to the hospital for fetal monitoring shortly before my admission. She was deemed to be just fine! But even if she was moving, I could barely feel her anymore. (This is likely a symptom of the intrauterine restriction more than the pre-eclampsia.)
  • My blood pressure was high. (I started checking at work because of my increasing fatigue.)
  • I had fleeting but crippling liver pain.
  • My abdomen measured small enough to warrant another ultrasound.
As you might imagine, we had anticipated anything opposite of what we experienced. I did everything I could to have a healthy pregnancy, before, during and after. These complications were the furthest thing I could imagine.
No one saw these issues coming. My health and baby seemed fine until we were suddenly not fine. The pre-eclampsia seemed to develop and become critical overnight.
*****
You may have been one of the people whose appointment was cancelled on short notice, due to the hospitalization. I apologize again for the inconvenience!

Who am I recommending to cover your nutrition needs during my absence?

Functional Medicine:

Sound Health Physicians

www.soundhealthphysicians.com/

Weight Management, Diabetes:

Megan Ellison, RDN, CDE

Sound Dietitians

Digestion, Food Sensitivities & Genetics:

Judi Epstein, ARNP
Reiko Sudduth, MS, RDN

Micronutrients, Prenatal/Postnatal Nutrition:

Dr. Chelsea Gordon

Flourish Family Medicine

Plant-based nutrition:

Sarah Reilly, plant-based health coach candidate

I’m not sure how often I can write newsletters at this present time, but I will continue to be active on Facebook. Join me there if you can!

Wishing you a happy & healthy weekend!

 

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