Monday, July 20, 2009

Documenting my preemie birth experience

I'm glad that people are finding the 20 questions useful. As promised, here are my responses to the questions. I used my son's birth for this one. I took out all of the NICU related questions because I think I'll do those as a separate set of answered questions.

  1. What are the facts?
    a. Weight/height/gestation info.
    Dominic was born weighing 1 lb. 15 ozs., he was 14 1/2 inches long and was exactly 31 weeks.
    b. Birth info – why did you have to deliver early?
    I had to deliver because I had HELLP Syndrome. My blood pressure was skyrocketing, my kidneys were beginning to fail and Dominic wasn't moving as much as he should have.
  2. What are some of the firsts you remember most?
    a. First seeing him/her
    I got to see Dominic for the first time as they wheeled me from recovery to a regular room. I remember being amazed at how tiny he was and yet he was still able to hold my hand for a moment.
  3. Beyond your significant other, who was the first person you told about what did or was going to happen? Why?
    The first person we called was my sister. She was going to college at the time and living with us. She came right over and stayed with my husband which was great.
  4. What was the scariest moment?
    One of the scariest moments for me was when I realized that I was going to have surgery. I had never had surgery before and the only thing I could think about was those Reader's Digest stories where the pain medicine doesn't work. In a way I'm glad that those thoughts were there because they quite honestly made me focus on something other than the fact that I was delivering our baby so soon.
  5. What was the happiest moment?
    Getting wheeled into the NICU and seeing my son. It was also scary but seeing him there looking like a real baby (I seriously had no idea what to expect) made me happy. And hopeful.
  6. When you look back, what makes you laugh?
    I will never forget this particular moment. The doctor had just told us that they needed to deliver right away. In my head I'm thinking "Okay. Well, I haven't had Lamaze classes yet so this will be hard. But women did it without classes for years so I'm sure I can do it." My thoughts must have been apparent somehow because suddenly the doctor looks at me and says "This will be an emergency c-section." Of course I looked straight back at him and said "Right. I figured that was the case."

    The other funny thing I remember is not being able to stay awake during the first 24 hours after surgery. They had to give me magnesium sulfate and that stuff knocks you out (esp. when they give you a really high dose). I would fall asleep in the middle of conversations. At one point they had brought me a Popsicle and I distinctly remember my brother-in-law sitting there and having to tell me over and over again "Debbie. Don't fall asleep. You have a Popsicle."

  7. What was the hardest part?
    I had to be put under for the surgery because my platelet levels were so low. Waking up in recovery I had no idea if my baby had made it, how he was doing or anything. My husband came in pretty quickly to tell me we had a boy and how much he weighed. The nurses promised to bring in a photo however it seemed to take forever. I felt like I was in that room for hours (turns out it was only about an hour and a half) and just knowing that my son was in the NICU somewhere and I couldn't go see him was really hard. I did finally get two Polaroid pictures to look at and I will always treasure them.
  8. What surprised you the most?
    I was really surprised by how hard it was to recover from the initial surgery. In some ways I'm thankful that my first 24 hours were foggy because I didn't focus on the fact that I couldn't see my son. The next day I thought that I was doing much better and started to grumble to the nurses that I was FINE despite what they said. So the nurse had me get up and sit somewhere while they changed the sheets on the bed. Not more than 30 seconds into it I thought I was going to throw up. Hmmm. Perhaps the nurse did know what she was talking about.
  9. Who was there? Who helped you the most?
    Many of our family and friends came out to support us which was great. My parents, my husband's parents and my sister (and her husband) were there quite a bit and that helped a lot.
  10. What are you most grateful for?
    I'm grateful for the anesthesiologist in the operating room. Just as she was putting the mask on to put me under she said "You are going to be fine and your baby is going to be fine." That helped me relax so much and I will always remember that moment.
  11. What sounds or smells do you remember?
    Hmmm. I don't really remember anything right now.
  12. If you could capture one moment in time and take a picture of it – what would it be? Why?
    I think it would have to be the moment they wheeled me into the NICU and I got to see my son for the first time. It was scary but also so wonderful. Even though we remained worried about him and his survival for the first few weeks, I think in that moment I knew he would make it.
  13. What would you change about the way you did things or a decision you made?
    I had known that things weren't quite right for the last couple of months (I was really small) and I wish I had pushed harder for them to check on the baby. Since he was my first I didn't really know what the expect so I wasn't sure if I was right or just being paranoid.
  14. What have you learned from the experience?
    I definitely learned to trust my instincts more. If something feels wrong (or right) than I try to listen to what that inner voice is saying and go with that. I've also learned that sometimes the most important things are taken out of your hands (the care of my son) and that has to be okay in order to get to the next step (taking him home).
  15. Have you changed from the experience?
    I think so - I hope so. Among other things, I've become much more assertive with medical personnel. This is my body (or my child's body) and I will always have a say in what is done and why.
  16. How did it make you a better person?
    I think that the whole experience has made me much more thankful for what I do have. It has also made me realize that things happen that we didn't want or have any control over but we have to make the best of it. Whatever that might be or mean.
  17. What would you tell other people who are going through the same thing?
    Trust your gut. Doctors are often too quick to disregard a potential problem. Friends may tell you - "oh it's nothing. Don't worry about it" And they might be right. But what if they aren't? If you really feel like something is off or not right, ask to be checked. The best/worst that can happen is that they tell you everything is fine.
  18. Would you/could you do it again if you had to?
    Absolutely! And I did (with far more issues the second time - lucky me).
  19. How did it feel when you knew you were going to be taking your baby home?
    Exciting and a little bit terrifying at the same time.
  20. Five words that describe the experience
    Scary. Amazing. Terrifying. Humbling. Incredible.

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