Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A shocking day: Our baby is here already!

Please meet our tiny new family member, who unexpectedly joined us more than 6 weeks early!  Since we don't share our children's names online, I'll call him Baby T.

My sweet, sweet boy:

Born at 33 weeks, 6 days gestation on Friday April 19th, weighing in at 5 pounds, 4 ounces, 18 inches long. He arrived by c-section. I will attempt to tell our story without over-using the word "shock". Be forewarned though, I might fail.   ;)

April 19th, a Friday. It began like any other day. I tidied the kitchen, I spent time taking a few pictures of the kids doing their homeschool work in preparation for our Tuesday Get Real series post on home learning. Around 11am I laid down with our toddler for a nap. I slept a long time, until after 3pm. Other than this oddly long nap, I had none, zero, NO signs of an impending labor. Just nothing!

I awoke from my nap and noticed I was having some strong Braxton Hicks contractions, or so I thought. Not thinking much of them I got up and expected to go on with my afternoon. It was about 3:30pm. I had another couple contractions while changing my youngests' clothes/diapers. Those were painful enough to really get my attention. I put a hot water bottle against my stomach. No change. I decided to take a hot shower- that always stops my contractions ("ctxs" from now on) unless it is the real deal. The thought that it could be the "Real Deal" didn't enter my mind until I was in that shower, because suddenly, there they were- hard, painful ctxs that were coming every 4 minutes. I could not believe it. I was shocked standing there. What on earth should I do next?? I hadn't mentioned my bizarre ctxs to anyone.

Then, I decided to check my cervix for any signs of dilation. Whoa. That was a little weird- I couldn't find my cervix- only a large bulging... thing. "Okay, that CAN'T be my water bag bulging and about to break.... can't possibly be". That is when I began crying.

 I don't have early babies! I don't experience premature labors! This didn't make any sense! Although my first baby had been born 5 weeks early 21 years ago, she was a very sick baby that required surgery. Her early birth was not shocking. Each of my 5 children after her came after entirely complication-free pregnancies and were all full term.

They were all born naturally and drug-free.

I stepped out of the shower and called to my teen son. "Umm, I think I need you to call _Husband_..... Umm, I think I am having a lot of ctxs. Tell him he needs to come home right now!!"  My husband was at work 45 minutes away. I couldn't call my midwife over and expect to deal with this at home, I was much too early in my pregnancy. I knew I needed to go to the hospital. The hospital is a 45 minute drive from our home. So, I was looking at a minumum of an hour and half before I could get through the doors of the emergency room. My last labor was only 44 minutes long, one other was 90 minutes. My ctxs were strong. I was terrified that I didn't have an hour and a half to wait. My husband agreed and suggested I call our neighbors, a busy family with 3 children of their own.

So, I call our neighbors out of the blue around 4:30 or 5pm and say, feeling embarassed (!), "Um, I seem to be having a lot of ctxs, I was wondering if you might be able to give me ride to the hospital, like right now?" And she did. Dropped everything and came right over. What an awesome neighbor, I'll be forever grateful.

My husband met me at the ER. Although my ctxs were regular and strong, I hadn't felt any pressure yet- no desire to begin pushing. I was still hopeful that they'd be able to give me a labor stopping drug and I'd get to go home to all my shocked children who I'd just suddenly left alone at home!

On a side note, my teen son's dad had been on his way over to our house to pick our son up for the weekend. In the end, he stayed at our house overnight, watching all our children at home, making them dinner and making them breakfast the next morning. How awesome is that. Again, I'll be forever grateful.

In the ER I was found to be 100% dilated and my bag of water was in fact about to burst. I was told I was deeply in labor and would be "having this baby very soon". They began prepping me and the room for my delivery. 

Shock. Shock shock shock! 

Having this baby tonight?? But I didn't have any signs of labor! No warnings! This couldn't be happening. AND, we hadn't even discussed baby names yet. I hadn't dug out, sorted or washed a single piece of baby clothing or diapers from our shop yet. Hadn't washed his blankets, ordered the last minute things I needed, upped my iron & alfalfa supplements in preparation for laboring. I hadn't even ordered my homebirth supplies! (lol)

I continued contracting strong and painfully every couple minutes. I was bleeding. I was feeling impatient- where was my urge to push? Where was the pressure of the baby's head needing to be pushed out? If I'm going to have this baby tonight, let's get the show on the road- I'm done with this labor pain! (Oh my goodness have I been spoiled by fast labors or what! Here I'd been contracting for maybe 2 hours and I was impatient and getting frustrated already.)  A doctor arrived. By the way, I had never set foot in this hospital before. I was surrounded by strangers in strange surroundings. This was not my cozy homebirth I had been expecting!

The doctor listened for the baby's heartbeat but couldn't find it. Huh, let's roll the ultrasound machine over here and find this baby's heart he said. It took all of about 5 seconds. He holds the ... wand(? or whatever it's called) way up in the high right part of my belly and says to his nurse, "there's the head".

There's the head? THERE??

He pushed for a bit, trying to turn him into the proper position for birth. I contracted so hard throughout the painful attempt. It wasn't happening.

And right about then is when time stopped. There was a sort of whoosh in my head and everthing around me disappeared for a moment. I think it was a wave of shock rolling through me. And the words came to my head: C-Section. Oh my God. Not only am I having this baby suddenly, right now, this doctor is about to tell me that I am going to have a C-Section. Something I had never considered could happen to me. Silly I know, but the truth. I had never even had an epidural- the thought of a big needle traveling into my spine was scary enough. But now I was going to experience major surgery. Right now. I was so overwhelmed.

Our wee Baby T had been head down just 3 evenings before at my midwife appointment. But on Friday, April 19th, he'd decided to go hang out up at the tip top of my uterus, lying sideways with his back facing toward my heart. It's like he didn't want to come out and was trying to get as far away from the birth canal as possible.

And so, a mere 4 hours after those very first, strangely painful "Braxton Hicks", our little son came into the world by C-section at 7:28pm.  They'd had a rough time getting him out for some reason. The doctor said he was "way up there" and he had to do some extra tugging and pulling to get him out. What a bizarre sensation- not painful, but I could sure feel a lot of pressure and yanking of my belly area. Since I was behind the sterile blue drape when he was finally pulled free, I couldn't see him. The large number of specialists and nurses that had gathered around to care for our preemie whisked him over to the warming table, cleaned him up a little bit and checked him out.

I cried because none of this was right. "I'm supposed to be holding him! He's crying and I should be holding him against my skin, and comforting him with breastfeeding. This is all just not right".  When a nurse carried him over to me very briefly so I could see him for the first time, he was naked in her hands. The first thing I said? "He is so small!!" Wow is he a little guy compared to our others. In fact, our largest baby was 10 pounds 6 ounces at birth, so Baby T is just about half that size!

 Once he was found to be stable, he was swaddled in blankets and kind of set by my face. I asked if I could hold him on me skin to skin (or perhaps it was my husband that asked that- everything is fuzzy in my memory). Although we were told they "don't normally allow that", they allowed it for us. :) And Baby T was un-bundled and laid on my chest while I was being sewed & stapled up. That was sweet. So I cried some more. 

Baby and Beloved Husband go to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I continue to get my guts put back together and am rolled away to recover from the drugs I was given to make my lower 2/3 numb. After quite awhile we were really wanting me to get to the baby so I could breastfeed. Finally, I attempted to step from my bed to a wheelchair that would take me to the NICU. I stood up, and then I bled.

I hemorrhaged. Sigh. It was scary. The anti-hemorrhage drugs I was given didn't take effect. The nurse began giving me a deep massage of my uterus to get the blood clots out and get the hemorrhage to cease. Apparently this is the protocol for hemorrhaging post-partum moms. It is more painful that childbirth. I screamed out in pain. I reflexively fought off the "attack" to my body. I was conscious of what they were doing- trying to save my life and my uterus (I might have been rushed back into surgery to have my hemorrhaging uterus removed in order to save me) but I physically couldn't stand the pain. It was awful.  A different anti-hemorrhage drug was given, along with more torturous massage. And thankfully, the bleeding slowed. But it was too late for breastfeeding as the baby's blood sugar was lowering so he was put on an IV.  And so, that was how we spent the evening of April 19th, 2013.

How Baby T is doing now:

At 11 days old and still in the NICU, he has been doing amazingly well for his gestational age. We're told the most common trouble that preemies like him experience is respiratory related. He's not had any trouble in that department. Never needed extra oxygen and has handled all his own breathing. After just a few days, he was even able to handle his own body temperature. He requires lots of bundling but he is able to keep warm enough he doesn't need any heating lights. All his organs are functioning, and he never even went below his birth weight, only gained.

On my lap:

The areas we are working on now- what is keeping him from going home- is his gaining strength in his eating, his jaundice going away, and his oxygen level staying consistent when he's in deep sleep. He's just a tiny little guy who is supposed to be peacefully dreaming his days away in my uterus for more than a whole month from now. But here we are asking him to do so much! Eating on his own, breathing, and regulating all his own systems with no help from a placenta. His suck is weak, he has a hard time with breastfeeding and bottle feeding. He tires out and falls in a deep sleep so the rest of his feeding has to be done through the feeding tube going down his nose to his stomach. Just yesterday he began making huge strides in this area and I'm feeling really excited about it. He has been able to complete several meals all on his own and not needed supplementing through his feeding tube. It's a great step.

He has jaundice, pretty much expected for all preemies we're told. He went under photo therapy lights for a couple days until his bilirubin level went down. It's slowly scooted back up a bit since then. The doctors want to see it stop inching up before sending him home. 

Under the lights to help cure his jaundice:

And, when he is deeply sleeping, sometimes his monitor shows that the oxygen level in his blood has gone down. He needs to remember to keep breathing deeply while he's sleeping to keep oxygen flowing freely to all his tissues. He used to have this problem many times during every meal but just recently nearly stopped, so that is also some wonderful improvement! 

He is tiny and very quiet. His cries are like little kitten cries. He is so so so sweet and wonderful and I never tire of staring at him. He's perfect. I'm sad he was forced out of his cozy uterine home so early & is begin forced to live like a big kid so soon. I spend a large amount of time while cuddling my teeny guy pondering how crazy this all is, how he is here already, how I had a C-section, a hemorrhage, how all my children are at home without me. I feel shocked at how fast and unexpectedly we found ourselves traveling on this path. I can't help but wonder if the extreme stress and anxiety I experienced due to the loss of my mom had anything to do with this. Strangely, my sister-in-law, who also spent those last days with my mama and our family, also gave birth by emergency C-section, 3 weeks before her due date. I ended up giving birth on her due date! Her baby was already 3 weeks old, and mine 6 weeks early....

The NICU nurses are all wonderful. I trust them and have had a fun time getting to know them while chatting in the wee hours of the night. The 3 neonatologists are also great and have been rooting for our "little NICU rockstar". They often tell us that he has done much better than they predicted, better than the statistics for 34 week preemies. So, that's awesome. But we still cannot wait to get him and me home again so our family can be all in one place and the chaos of this time can calm....

Look at those teeny feet and little stick legs :)  

How I am doing now:

I was able to stay in the hospital for several days after birth. I was at his bedside every 3 hours for his feedings and often sat and held him skin to skin between. Even after I was discharged the hospital allowed me to stay in a room for 2 additional days at no cost just so I could be near my NICU baby. Once there wasn't enough room for me to stay any longer, a bed was found for me at a house very near the hospital that is set up just for people like me. It is sort of like a "Ronald McDonald" house- for people that live too far away from the hospital to get there conveniently, but have a family member in the hospital that they should be near. I am SO grateful.

Here is my room in that house. Mostly I sleep, keep my things, and pump breastmilk here. I am pumping with our rented breast pump every 3 hours around the clock to keep my milk supply up so I will have plenty of milk for him when he's strong.

The doctors don't have a theory why I suddenly went into labor. That just happens sometimes and we never figure out why they say. Baby and I both underwent all sorts of blood tests and exams but nothing amiss was found. We're both healthy. I lost a lot of blood, but not quite enough to require a transfusion. My body is weak, my incision is quite painful, and I suffered back spasms for several days after my spinal block. But, I will be fine. Eventually, Baby T will be fine. I am full of gratitude, and give prayers of thanks over and over day and night.

But right now, is hard. My husband is home with all our children. He is working from home temporarily(remember he just got this new job about a month ago, & is supposed to commute to the city for it). He is building fencing for our animals during his spare moments so they can get out on the spring grass. He's attempting to put in our garden, keep the house under control and our kids from suffering too much due to mom suddenly being absent.

Our children at home are 14, 7, 5, 3, and 19 months.

My 14 yr old is working too hard. He's been forced to take over many of my jobs and care for his siblings a lot so Husband can work. He has a fantastic attitude and we remind him often how thankful we are for his help and hard work. He did get away for a bit for a Boy Scout camping event that was great fun for him. My in-laws have come over to help us a few times.

This is the toughest time Husband and I have experienced in our relationship, yet we have to do it an hour apart from each other. That has been so, so hard for me. I have come home for a short stay (less than a day) twice now. It's rough for me to see how much the kids are acting up due to the stress of my being gone, the laundry piling up, all the housewifery jobs that I love to do not being done... But everybody is fine. I know this is temporary. My husband is a loving dad, everyone is being cared for. Just not by me for a short while.

And, I miss my mom. I really miss my mom a lot. My tears come as quickly as they did the first week after her passing. She is always by my side when I have babies. I see "It's a Boy!" balloons in the gift shop and suddenly lose big drippy tears. I know my mom would have bought that balloon for me I think to myself. Once I was asked, perfectly innocently by a hospital staff member, if my mom would be "coming to help me" and I burst into tears. It's hard seeing so many grandmas on the birthing floor where the NICU is. I am happy for them, genuinly so, when they gush to me with excitement over their new grandbaby. And then I lose a tear or two. "It's not fair", I think to myself. Why can't MY mom be here gushing with excitement to all who will listen about HER new grandbaby?

Apparently it is spring outside! I spend much of my time in windowless rooms. On the hospital grounds:

I never tire of staring into that face!

There is much more I could say, so many more thoughts and emotions and stories. But I have a baby in the NICU I need to get back to. This post is going to have to come to an end!


  1. I never tire of hearing stories of the miracle of babies 'birth'days! This baby is special! He began life outside of his mama's womb different than all of his siblings for a reason...what a blessing to your family to be able to witness the 'why' as each day unfolds!

    Your children are so fortunate to be raised in such a loving environment that you and your husband are providing.

    I want to think that your mom's love is being used through you as you tend to your own children. They will know her/remember her because of your actions, your hugs, your advice, the nourishing foods you prepare for them, etc., but most of all the love & kindness you show them so generously!

    Abundant blessings!~~Dona

  2. holy moly! Well congrats! I didn't even think of you giving birth last week when you cancelled get real! Shocker :-) I have 4 kids and the first 3 were quick vaginal births. My last one did the same as yours. He was full term, but head down forever. Then when I went into labor he flipped sideways and they did a c section. Sucks but he's healthy. Healing from the surgery sucks ass though. The baby is gorgeous!

  3. Congratulations! What a sweet baby boy. What a blessing. I am very sorry it happened sooner than you expected though. What a perfect little man. :) I pray you are all home together very soon. Love and God Bless!

  4. Congratulations on tiny baby T! He is beautiful. Sorry you had to have a c-section, I had one, they are awful. Especially when you have other little ones to care for at home. Try to rest as much as you can. I enjoyed reading your birth story, thanks for sharing it with us. I'm glad the baby is doing well, 33 weeks and 6 days is awfully early! Hope you are both able to go home soon!

  5. Oh my dear Aubrey. So glad that all seems to be turning out well and you have a beautiful little boy and you are healing too.
    I will keep you all in my prayers.. you have been through so much.
    Love, Tonya

  6. Wow - what a wild story. I am glad that Baby T is doing well and getting strong. We pray for him and you. He is born on my daughter's birthday and her story is similar to yours. Something about 19 April that makes for wild births ;)

    Congrats, welcome baby T and prayers for healing.

    You have an amazing attitude and acceptance.

  7. Wow what a story, am glad that Baby T is doing well and getting stronger by the day. Congratulations to you and your husband

  8. How adorable! I am so glad you are both ok. And I hope you both get to go home soon. What a great husband and your son is amazing. What a beautiful new baby boy. So happy for you.

  9. Wow, that is a crazy story! Congratulations on little T, he is perfect. Sending love and prayers that you both get to go home soon. Healing vibes too.

  10. Oh, what a handsome little fighter! This brings back so many memories... Our twins were born 3 months preemies and spent all that time in the NICU. It's such a scary place! I am so glad you are doing well, and he is doing amazing! It will end soon, and you will be back in your home with all your precious little ones around you. Just make sure you get plenty of rest. The laundry can wait! Praying for you and your little guy!

  11. HE is so beautiful! What a sweet story of his birth. I've been there too, with my second.
    Hugs....hugs! And prayers.

  12. Wow, what an ordeal! I am so sorry that you have had to go through all of that.......life seems truly difficult at times. Please be kind to yourself and rest and don't waste any of your precious energy on guilt at not being with your babies at home. None of this is your fault and they will be fine (they have not had a C section :-)). I am sending healing vibes to you and your beautiful boy and I am sure your Mum will be too. Xxxxxx

  13. He's beautiful. What a story! As a fellow vaginal birth, no epidural mom, I understand the disappointment. But I'm so glad you're all doing well. Enjoy your new little guy. The other stuff can all wait, although I know being away from your other kids is so hard! But don't feel guilty- you're where you need to be, and it sounds like they are doing fine. Soon you'll be home and back to work! ;)

  14. Congratulations on that beautiful little baby! Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  15. He is adorable! Sorry you are having trials but he is so worth it.Sending up prayers for your family and especially for sweet baby's health

  16. Oh, Aubrey. I am so sorry things did not go as planned.
    What a beautiful baby boy! I am so glad to hear he is doing so well, what a strong and healthy fella!
    My first birthing was a traumatic one with unexpected things and worry- also ending in a c/s- and I send you huge tight hugs and healing thoughts, wishing you to be home soon all together, and for you to have a peaceful heart!
    Your big boy sounds wonderful- what a hero!
    Love, Melanie

  17. He's such a treasure, love. Such a dear treasure. And I'm sure your mum is gushing from heaven, proud of what your family has achieved. Take care, hold each other close and remember you are loved. Welcome to the world, T. :)

  18. First, I will say Congrats to you and the family on the arrival of your sweet little wee one. Although things started out in a fret..I am thankful that all is going so well now. Your little darling is precious. I know its hard being away from your other babies,but I am praying baby T will soon be well enough to go home and you will all be together under one roof again....safe,sound,and very blessed. I know you must miss your mama so very much.....I pray Jesus will give you strength,and you are able to cast all your cares on him...he understands your feelings so very much....more than any other.....blessings

  19. Sending you wishes for peace and healing as you move through the shock back to a new "normal". My (now 6 year old) twin boys were born at 32.5 weeks, totally unexpectedly, and that changed so much. Like you said, that is not how it was supposed to be. Harsh and shocking and bewildering. For what it's worth, it sounds like you are doing such a wonderful job for T - it is hard(!), but he's one lucky boy :) Sending peace to the rest of your family as well, until you're all able to be back together!

  20. Oh my! Congratulations on your sweet one, and many wishes for both of you to heal and grow strong and get back home with the rest of your loved ones :)

  21. Oh wow, Aubrey! I'm so happy that he is doing well and is such a strong little guy. I can't imagine how hard this post partum is and I hope that soon you will be able to experience your peaceful babymoon at home with your other little ones.
    I'm so sorry that you have to be so far from your family and going through all of this while the loss of your mom is still so raw. :(
    I'll be praying for continued healing for you, strength for him and lots of love for your whole family.
    <3 Kris

  22. I hope you get well soon, a big kiss of hope from Portugal

  23. Well goodness, that IS shocking! So happy you are all doing well. You have a great attitude and that can make all the difference. T is such as sweet li'l peanut. I love the way he looks grumpy in the bottom photo: "What's up with all this commotion! I wanna go back in the womb to float and sleep!"
    Continued blessings for you and your family.
    ~Flaneuse in Dc

  24. I am sending up prayers for you tonight, Aubrey. This is indeed a tumultuous time for you. So many emotions and major events all overlapping each other. What a blessing medical technology is when we need it. So thankful that your newest little one is healthy and that you have received the care you've needed. I'm sorry that it didn't go as you had planned! It is so hard to have our plans changed without our permission. It is so hard to be split apart from family while you are going through so many things. As I was reading this I just wanted to be by your side and hold your hand as you are away from home, your other children, your mother and your husband. The wave of intense emotion can be so overwhelming at the birth of a child. I cannot even imagine how much more when you are dealing with loss and broken expectations! You are such a courageous woman and I deeply admire you. Blessings to you and yours. Praying you get to return home soon and that you will have an outpouring of community support!

  25. Oh my gosh. I came over to peek into your blog thinking you'd be writing about the animals and routine days with your children.

    I'm glad you and your new little boy are okay. You've had an extraordinary delivery in many, many ways. It's hard when your heart is in several places at once and so much is asked out of you when your body needs to heal. And it's hard not to feel bittersweet sadness at the arrival of your baby boy when your mother passed so recently.

    Yours is an amazing birth story, a surprising one. I think you have raised a valid point connecting personal loss with premature delivery-I wonder, are there any studies about early deliveries following the death of a loved one/grief?

    But-from a stranger, a mother myself, I came to say, Congratulations on the newest member of the family and may you all be reunited at home quite soon!

  26. That is such an amazing story, and I am so so glad that you and your sweet new one are together and getting stronger. The photo of him with your husband nearly brought tears.
    Such a gift. And such a little one.. my babies are that size at full term! (Thank goodness full term!!)
    Healing well wishes and blessings to all your family,

  27. I am so Thankful that everything came out okay!
    What a cute lil guy, the kids at home must be so anxious to meet him.

  28. What a handsome chap! Sending lots of love to you and your family, prayers for healing and strength.

  29. oh honey- I don't know what to say. So much to go through so quickly on the heels of losing your mom.Although I know it won't help much children are so resilient- the ones at home will get by and things will return to a " new " normal in time when everyone is home.

    Although I don't want in any way to add to your confusion of feelings, I did want to add that in First Nations cultures ( I believe in the States you still refer to them as " North American Indians") there is a great taboo against pregnant women being around death. Even men who's wives are pregnant cannot take part in hunts or butchering at this time.I have worked co-ordinating prenatal nutrition programs for First Nations families here in Canada for 13 years now and am very aware that pregnant women do not attend funerals .It is thought that the spirit within them might decide to pass over into the spirit world with the dying family member. The baby must be encouraged to make the decision to stay here in this world with the living by offering it separation from that threshold.

    I know you are Christian and do not believe in spiritual practices of others but you did seem to wonder why both you and your SIL had premature births- as a scientifically trained Registered Nurse and Doula I would throw out huge amounts of stress as a large contributing factor but I am also a spiritual person and realize there is so much our limited human minds will never full comprehend.

    My thoughts and prayers for your whole family!

  30. Still praying for your little guy and you!