Patience and (Isabella) Grace

In my head and before today, I wrote this blog over and over. It was this glowing story of how my baby girl came into this world and wrapped up with us driving home with a bundle of joy, perfectly swaddled, ready to whip up a nice meal.

Yeah…That didn’t happen.

It started with a 13 day delay in her arrival, which, if you’ve been reading my blog lately worked out quite well.

On January 17th, we went in for testing and a discussion of next steps to get Izzy out of me. She was perfectly content, with plenty of fluid cushioning her and she wasn’t in any distress. I joked she had made a fort, and probably set up a mini bar in there. Options were thrown around-the Foley Catheter, Misoprostol, Cervidil. There was talk of rupturing membranes and discussion of what we could do for next steps if these options didn’t work. We opted to sit on it.  I researched every method, asking other moms and eventually crying on the couch in overwhelm at the possible side effects of the medications. I just wanted her to come out on her own.

On Monday the 21st, we went back in. I had decided to start with a membrane scrape, following by a scheduled induction for the next evening using Cervidil, the least risky of the medications.  Plans were made to hit a local bar for one last night out, and to celebrate a friends birthday. Around 6 that night, I started to feel light contractions, chalking it up to cramping from the membrane scrape. We got home around 9, and I ended up calling it a pretty early night. I was tired and still feeling crampy.

I woke up at 7 the next day, and logged into work. Knowing that my labor was going to be induced 12 hours later, I opted to work a half day.  The cramping had continued, but wasn’t regular, just stronger. Somewhere around 10 I mentioned jokingly to Nick that I may be going into labor.  Around 1, the contractions became stronger and stronger, but were still pretty manageable. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t deal with.

As the night went on, the contractions grew in regularly and increased in strength. I was in pain, but this was fine, as it was time to leave for the hospital. When we got there, I let them know I was there to be induced, but may not need to be, as I was probably in labor.  This got an odd look until I told the contractions were coming every 10-20 mins, and lasting about 1-2 minutes each.  We were admitted, and I found out one of my favorite midwives was the one on call.

I’ll pause here in the story to recap things I know now:
Natural labor hurts.
A lot.
That is all.

I labored in the bed for another 4 hours, trying to walk and not vomit, and then sitting as the pain was too bad. I rolled around in the bed, trying to use stupid visualization and deep breathing, and other natural pain management techniques. Nothing was stopping the pain. Nick was a rock, providing the only relief I could get-back and leg rubs and encouragement. It was time to move to the tub, to see if this would relieve the pain. It was at this point all of my modesty went out of the window. I didn’t care what stranger saw me naked, I just wanted that damn Jacuzzi tube. Nick, a nurse, my midwife, and my giant pregnant belly squeezed into the bathroom to see how well the tub worked.

It didn’t.

It was at this point I asked the question I had been dreading, “How soon is too soon to get an epidural?”. After 13 hours (I don’t count when it didn’t hurt bad enough to stop me), I was done. I wasn’t having fun, and I didn’t think I was going to have enough energy to push, let alone enjoy the birth of my baby. To make sure I was indeed making the right choice, we checked to see how dilated I was. 8-we push through. Anything below 5, we get the epidural going. I was a three. A measly three. A ‘you have 7 cm’s to go before you are ready to go’, three. Bah.

The epidural quickly went in, and the world was an amazing, beautiful, happy place. I could still feel my legs, and had movement, but couldn’t feel much pain. I could still feel the sensation of my contractions too. It was all going to be ok, and I wasn’t going to die an overly dramatic death.

9 hours later, the epidural started to wear off, but was quickly fixed for me by using the game show buzzer thing. It was time to push.

At 1:10 pm, under the watchful eye of the Space Needle, under a slate sky, Isabella Grace came into the world, not with a whimper, but a ferocious scream, announcing her presence to the world.  She was placed quickly on my chest, and looked up at me with strong, dark blue eyes. She was mine, and I was hers.  Nick cut her cord, and we gazed at her sweet tiny face lovingly.

All was right in the world, until it wasn’t.

It became clear she wasn’t breathing right. Her breathing was shallow, she had a wet and high pitched wheeze, and she wasn’t taking to breast.  People were called, and doctors pulled her away from me. I was told to push to deliver the placenta.  It wouldn’t come out, and I couldn’t concentrate. It was clear it was going to have to be removed by hand. I didn’t care, I strained to see my baby girl and to hear what was happening.  I could only catch bits of words, pallet, tongue, fluid. Then laughing, Nick was peed on twice. I thought, “It must be ok” but I wondered, “Why didn’t I have my baby?  When were they going to give her back?”.

More words, people, bodies buzzing about, alarms screaming that something was wrong with her tiny body. I just wanted my fucking baby. After all I had been through this year, this month, this week. I wanted to hold her.  I earned this, I deserved this. I needed this. More words. I was told I had torn during delivery, stitches went in, and I didn’t care. Things were flying by in a haze.

Finally, things slowed down. She had fluid in her lungs, and this was preventing her from breathing right. Her pallet wasn’t formed right, and she had a tongue tie. This was preventing her from nursing, and would prevent her from eating right away. She needed to go to the Special Care Unit. I was able to hold her again, but briefly. The med team trickled out, but stayed close, so we could have some privacy. After only a few minutes, she was quiet and she looked like she had stopped breathing, then the monitors starting going off. I jostled her to get to wake up, yelling for Nick to get the nurse, begging for her to wake up. The nurses ran in to take her away as she was waking up. I was terrified, and just like that she was gone.

I was wheeled up to see her a little while later. She was mostly alert, but tired. I was able to hold her for an hour, snuggling her tiny warm body. She was still gasping for air, but was stable.  Specialists continued to buzz around us and our family, assessing what could be done for her. It was decided that she would be transferred to NICU at Seattle Children’s Hospital where they would coordinate with the cranial-facial team.

I was brought back to my room and Nick and I just sat in shock. How could this have happened?  What did I do wrong?  I did everything right-I didn’t drink, I ate organic, I exercised, watched what I ate, and only ate fast food twice. All that to end up with a baby who couldn’t breathe. I was devastated and I only slept after the combination of hours of labor and crying made me pass out.

The next day, NICU came to pick her up via ambulance, bringing a plexiglass transport crib. It didn’t feel real. Izzy was crying so hard she was shaking. I was so grateful for one staff member-a mid 50’s, brick house of a man, with a giant chest and hands that looked like they could rip a tree out of the ground with a quick tug. He wore suspenders with chili peppers on them and had a soft voice, saying “if you hear alarms, you look at me. If I don’t look nervous, you don’t need to be. It’ll all be ok.”  It was the first time I thought that it may be alright. He proceeded to bend over Izzy, cupping her tiny body in his massive hands, cooing and patting her. She settled down, and with that, I did too. They took her away and I started to cry, and the hospital staff ran to comfort us. They loved Izzy already too. We would arrive at Children’s NICU a few hours later, unsure of what would happen.

The NICU is a quiet place, with the exception of the alarms, the machines, and the quiet buzz of the staff discussing the most recent updates of the tiny patients. Walking in, there was one baby crying-mine. All of the other babies were intubated or just couldn’t cry louder than a whimper. It was a relief. In looking at the posts from Facebook, I am reminded of the fear I felt that my child wasn’t going to be healthy, and the guilt I felt with each small win she had. The baby next to us was so tiny, and was hooked up to so many machines. He had also been there long enough that his parents had brought in toys, a mobile, and other comforts of home. The longer we were there, the more that stood out; kids who had been there, and didn’t have a chance of going home any time soon had their nurseries in the hospital. We felt transient, and I hoped that would be the case.

The next day, we were transferred out of the NICU and into the Cranial-Facial ward. This area was brighter, louder and with children whose issues far surpassed Izzy’s. We were met with intermittent screams of pain, and debilitating conditions and the feeling that this was the end of the line for some kids. Again, I considered myself so lucky-my child looked normal and was healthy. She couldn’t breathe perfectly in certain positions, and needed help eating. Some of these kids couldn’t breathe without assistance and were on their 4th or 5th surgeries. My heart broke for them, and again, I felt guilt for knowing my child was doing so well. She was three days old-already holding her head up, pushing herself up, breathing better and increasing her feeds. She was 3 days old.

The days would pass and every few hours would bring a new success. She would eventually breathe even better, and start taking a bottle, she would try to nurse on me and she would get to a healthy level of eating, a good amount of which would be by bottle. She would pass her hearing tests with flying colors, and her blood work would all come back normal. Quickly, word spread around about her, and specialists were coming left and right to see her and get us out of there.

When all was said and done, we were finally able to come home, 6 days later from when we left to bring her into the world.

No one expects that their child will be born with a condition, or require intensive care. I am humbled by everything I was exposed to. I am so, so grateful to the unconditional love and support of friends, family and the staff we met along the way. I have a renewed faith in one’s ability to push through hardships and to find the silver lining in the darkest of situations. Looking back, I have to ask Nick if some of this even happened, as it all seems like a bad dream. We talk about how a week flew by and drug on, all at the same time, and how lucky we truly are. He’s pointed out that there were some things in this blog that I minimized and how much worse some of the things were. All I know is that I am so, so happy to be home, and that she is ok. There’s nothing better in the world than that.

With that, I leave you with happiness, love, and quotes~

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”  – Dr. Seuss

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity”. – Ulysses S. Grant

Best,
Raina, Nick and Isabella

3 comments

  1. Heather Holdgrafer says:

    Raina and Nick, I am so truly happy that your precious little Izzy is healthy! She sounds like a very strong little lady and I wish you all the best. xoxo P.S. I love the pic of you and Izzy, Raina, with you looking up. Just beautiful.

  2. Monique Colver says:

    I haven't even met Izzy yet, but I feel an affinity with her, more so than I've ever felt before. Maybe it's the way you talk about her. Maybe it's because she's Izzy. Isabella. Such a special child, such special parents. I can't wait to meet her.

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