I will warn you now, this is a very long, very detailed post... Probably not for the faint of heart or for the weak stomach. I really spare no details here because this story means so much to me. This is one of the most amazing stories I will ever tell....
Austin James came into the world on June 8th, 2011 at 1:29 am. He was 5 pounds 11 ounces and 19 inches long and had a full head of dark hair.
From the beginning:
On Monday, June 6th, we spent the day grocery shopping and cleaning up the house to get ready for my induction at 9pm that night. My parents arrived at our house from Ca around 6:30pm and we grilled steak and cooked up some yummy potatoes and garlic bread and had salad for dinner. I didn’t eat much because I was so nervous and so excited. I had been off work for about a week at this point because my blood pressure kept spiking and the Dr. was worried that I was stressing too much at work and making it worse. So by this time I was getting antsy and wanting to meet our little guy!
We ended up leaving our house late because I insisted on taking another shower so that I would feel fresh and ready to go. It helped to calm me and by 9pm we were out the door and on our way, with a slight detour because the freeway on-ramp by our house was closed! By the time we got there it was 9:35pm and we were admitted right away, straight into our Birth Room, room #9. The nurse checked my Cervix and found that I was only dilated to 1cm, same as a week prior to that, and only effaced 50%. We started cervidil around 10pm and I immediately began having measureable contractions. I was able to get some sleep that night even with the contractions because my OB, Dr. Bullaro, prescribed me some Ambien. Let me tell you how thankful I was for that knowing what the future held for me.... Once I took the Ambien I told Chris that the picture on the wall was beginning to look 3D to me and shortly after that I passed out. I slept pretty soundly throughout the night and only woke up a couple of times when the nurse came in to check my blood pressure and to readjust the baby’s heart rate monitor. (It kept slipping, or he kept kicking at it and then moving away from it.) He had a good heart rate throughout the night and my BP was steady at around 150/92, which yes, is high, but not as high as it had been.
On Tuesday morning (June 7th) around 8am after hardly any change in my cervix after the night of Cervidil, (still dilated to 1cm and effaced to 75%) they started me on Pitocin at 2ml/hr and increased it every hour or so until I was running at 12ml/hr. I didn't realize this then, but I was only at a 1 and am now being told they should have never started it until I was at a 3!!!! This explains so much of what is to follow. Not five minutes after the Pit was started the contractions got stronger and stronger and it wasn't long until they were 2 minutes apart. They were hitting very hard in my back and it felt like someone was kicking me full force in the tailbone. This was honestly the worst pain I have ever been in by far and so by 2pm I was crying (literally) for them to start my epidural. The nurses checked me and STILL NO PROGRESS! Now I was irritated. Here I am suffering on this medication for 6 hours and it isn’t even doing its job... Chris was furious at this point and told the nurse they needed to give me something for pain, to which the nurse covering (mine was in with her other patient who was giving birth…) that pain is part of it. I thought he was going to yell at her, but he stayed pretty calm and assured me that he would talk to our nurse when she got back. When she did, she finally agreed that something needed to be done for me and turned the Pitocin back down to 4ml/hr, which eased the contractions a little. They called Dr. B who came over to the hospital around 4pm after seeing her patients in her office. When she checked me I was at 2cm, so she said she was going to break my water to see if we can move things along and place an internal monitor to check on the strength of the contractions. Once the monitor was in, Dr. B decided my contractions were strong enough to get the epidural... YA THINK?!
So now it’s about 5pm on Tuesday and the anesthesiologist comes in and starts my epidural... Talk about sweet relief! I was finally able to calm down, and found that after 9 hours of crying and breathing through the pain I was exhausted! They turned the Pit back up to 12ml/hr, but I was still able to doze off here and there. They had to keep me on my side because the baby was having some heart rate issues, so It was a bit of a challenge to balance my body since I couldn’t feel anything. The baby’s heart rate was decelerating after about 45 minutes in one position, so I had to turn often. This should have been a warning sign to everyone, but they all ensured me that we just needed to stay on my side and everything would be fine. Of course at this point my blood pressure is also through the roof, so I am thinking, great now I will need a C Section... I labored like this for the next 5 hours and finally progressed to a 6. (By the way, Chris was amazing through all of this. He was my advocate when the pain was so intense that I couldn’t think and he helped me to stay calm all the way through the delivery and after. I seriously don’t know where I would be without him...)
10:30pm on Tuesday, sitting at 6cm, and I finally got the motivation I needed, I guess. My brother, who wasn’t going to be able to make it until the weekend after Austin arrived, strolls on into my hospital room and I just start bawling. I don’t know what kind of sixth sense we have for one another, but we always know when the other needs each other, and God must have known how much I would need him over the next couple days. Having him there made it so much more real, and more complete to have the whole family waiting for me and Austin in the waiting room. Ben and I talked for a while, but I could tell he was nervous seeing my lying on my side with a bunch of IVs (at this point I should mention they had to stick my 4 times!!!! Because we kept losing vein access on me, so annoying!) and an oxygen mask over my mouth. I tried to stay calm and tell him that I was ok and that everything was fine, but every time the monitors chimed for my BP or for the baby’s heart rate, he jumped about 10 feet. He went into the waiting room at around 11:40 so the nurse could come in and move me to the other side and take vitals.
11:45pm comes and I feel like I need to push, so I tell the nurse I think I am ready. She checks me and sure enough I am at a 10 and its time to start pushing. She got me set up to push on my side because the baby was still having heart rate problems, but when I got on my side, he continued to decal, so we decided to wait for Dr. B to start doing anything. She called Dr. B who arrived about 5 minutes after. With Dr. B there we began pushing again and pushed and pushed and pushed for an hour and a half. Austin was in there pretty snug, so I got an episiotomy with two cuts, one to the side and one down, and pushed through two more contractions and he was finally out at 1:29am.
Now my nightmare begins. Some background first... I work at a children's hospital and see all sorts of scary things happen to kids. Let me tell you nothing, and I mean nothing will ever prepare you to see it happen to your own. Even as I write this I am crying uncontrollably. So as Austin is coming out I hear Dr. B tell the nurse we need the Neonatal Team in here STAT. Within seconds the NP is there and Austin is being looked over. I hear, he isn’t breathing and his APGAR is a 2. (I am thinking and praying, Please let him be ok.) I can't see him, but knowing what I know and seeing what instruments they are using I can tell they are ventilating him. I hear: his heart rate is good! (whew!) Still not breathing, it’s been two minutes... (AHHH!) Intubating now... (this is when I lost control... Sobbing, yelling at them to help him, praying, you name it I did it.) Chris is telling me to stop looking over there and to look at him, but every time I look at him I cry harder and start telling him that I am sorry. All I could do was apologize over and over because I blamed myself for everything that was happening. Chris is so calm, and being so good to me and staying super positive for the both of us, I will never be able to repay him for that. Then the NP intubates him and as soon as they give one breath through the tube he starts breathing on his own. 4 minutes had gone by total. They brought him to me and let me kiss him and say hello and then took him away to the nursery for observation. This was a total whirlwind, and the thing that upsets me most is that moment after the birth where the mommy gets to ogle her baby and memorize his every feature was robbed from me because I don’t even remember what he looked like right then, and it’s the one thing I will never be able to get back.
At some point during this whole thing I delivered the placenta, which my OB decided, because of the circumstances, she would send to pathology. The nurse got me all cleaned up and after about an hour, and 7 stitches, I was ready to go see my little man. I should tell you that he was nameless up until this point, and Chris agreed to use my favorite name because he came out with a full head of dark hair and after everything we had been through that day, he thought I should get to pick. Once we got to the nursery at about 3:30am the nightmare continued... They said that he was stable now, BUT they were transferring him to the Children's hospital so he could be evaluated in the NICU. My heart sank; my home life and my work life were colliding with a force that I was not prepared for. We each got to hold him for about 5 minutes apiece and took turns taking pictures of one another holding him. He was so beautiful and peaceful in our arms. We were told that his Apgar score had improved to a 7 and that he was breathing room air on his own without the aid of oxygen. He was given antibiotics as a standard of care after intubation and was put on fluids because feeding him at this point could be detrimental to his bowel if the oxygen had left it to attend to his brain during his post birth trauma. I was not able to try and breastfeed, which was very hard for me because I just wanted one normal thing to work out for us. After about 30 minutes in the nursery the Neonatal flight nurse service got there with the ambulance and we said our goodbyes and I love yous and then Austin James took his first ambulance ride.
June 8th, 7am. Austin's Dr. at the NICU calls me and tells me that he is doing great and looks much better than they thought, but that he would still need to be kept in the NICU for a while longer. By 9 am I am begging to be discharged, and after getting my shot of Rhogam, and promising my OB that I will call for anything and everything, I am out the door at 10:30am. We stopped at home to shower quickly and then made our way to the NICU. Like I said before, nothing prepares you for seeing your baby attached to monitors with IVs in their arms. Still, he was beautiful and perfect in every way.
We stayed with him for quite a while and eventually decided we needed a few things from the baby store and to grab things from home to stay the night in the hospital, so we left. As we were sitting down to eat some dinner, since I hadn’t eaten since Monday, we got a call from the Dr. saying that Austin had had a seizure and that he was stable once more on some medication. I was in shock, I hyperventilated in the parking lot of the restaurant as my dad and Chris tried to get me in the car. We rushed back to the hospital and were told that they were going to do a CT to check for a bleed and also an EEG to check for seizure activity. The CT showed some cell damage, but no bleed, which was expected after lack of oxygen at birth, and the EEG was completely clear, so this was not an epileptic event. After that we stayed with him in the NICU until we were passing out in our chairs, and were given a nesting room to sleep in overnight. I woke up every 2 hours to pump and say hello to Austin. Our days were running together, so it’s important to note that Austin was only about 16 hours old at this point.
The next day (June 9th.) the Dr. decided to do an MRI to see if there was any damage due to the lack of oxygen at birth. The results came back that evening and we were given the shock of our life. Little Austin had suffered a stroke when he was born. While this probably sounds just as scary as it did to me at first, the Doctors assured us that baby strokes, especially neonatal strokes, are not the same as adults. And even though Austin had one, it only affected one portion of his brain and that there is a good chance he will never be affected by it. The stroke he had was centered on the visual cortex of his brain so if he is affected by it, it may only hinder his sight, or possibly lead to some developmental problems down the line. While this was not the best news, hearing that our son was going to live, and could possibly be normal, was a relief. We knew that no matter what the outcome, that we would love him just the same anyway, so as long as his life was not in danger, then we were ok with that. We were also told at this point that Austin has a club foot and would need to be casted and wear a brace over the next couple years of his life to get it in the right position. No one really focused on it until then because there was so much other stuff going on.
We spent a week in the NICU, and I faithfully pumped every 2 hours to try and stimulate some milk production for Austin, but that was slow going. By the time he was discharged I was still not making nearly enough and he was already loving the bottle. My dreams of breastfeeding went out the window, but I pumped and pumped some more to at least give him something. Austin was discharged on Wednesday, the day he turned a week old. The good news is he feeds like a champ, in fact he is an oinker. He is a happy baby, and a good sleeper. All the things a new parent hopes for. The not so good news is we now have 6 different Doctors to follow up with for Austin's care so we have a long, long road ahead of us. All I can say is that he is worth all of it. Hopefully we can address all of the issues that he has had to face and prove that Austin is one in a million and will defy the odds just like I know he will. I am still dealing with the blame issue I have and have faced a little bit of postpartum depression, but I am working on it and beginning to bond with Austin more and more every day. Now that we are out of the hospital and I am able to see him as my son and not a potential patient of mine, it is easier to realize that he is mine and that no matter what he always will be.