Baby Cameron’s Birth Story

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The last couple of months have been hectic. After finding out at 31 weeks that our son had a heart defect, my weeks were filled with doctors’ appointments both in and out of state. We ultimately decided, with such a rare diagnosis and an unclear outcome, that we would deliver at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who are third in the nation for pediatric cardiology. They also had the Special Delivery Unit, which is for mothers giving birth to sick babies who need immediate attention at the hospital. It also helped that my whole family lives in Philadelphia, so I had plenty of support when it came to childcare and the like.

CHOP doesn’t allow for VBACs, which I was upset about, since that was what I was planning on for 30 weeks, and everything was lining up for a good try. But, I had to put that aside, because I wanted my baby to be born where he’d get the best care, and in the end, the only thing that mattered was his well-being.

Because I was scheduled for a c-section, I had to go up to Philadelphia during my 38th week, just in case I went into labor early. This part was really hard, because we decided I’d go alone that week and stay with my mom, just so our toddler, K, could stay in school and in his routine as much as possible. I had panic attacks and meltdowns almost daily the week before, and then a full attack in the car on the day of my departure. Thankfully, that week went by quickly, and by the next Saturday, I was reunited with K and B.

My c-section was scheduled for the 24th. We got to the hospital bright and early in the morning to get all the pre-op stuff done. I think the strangest part of a scheduled c-section is just showing up for it. With my previous c-section, I labored for 17 hours before we went to the OR. But I had hardly had any contractions at all before week 39, so the experience was completely different. I was also nervous about getting a spinal block, because I’d heard that sometimes it numbs so far up that you have trouble breathing. I also don’t remember getting my epidural with my previous labor, because I was already in pain from the contractions.

Thankfully, I have a really high pain tolerance level, and even the anesthesiologist was impressed that I hardly flinched when he placed the block. My husband joined me shortly after and tried to hold a conversation with me while I was doing breathing exercises to keep my mind off what was happening, and the numbing sensation creeping up my body.

This was also the inbetween time, where we didn’t know just how sick our baby would be when they delivered him. It was a strange moment, because I wanted to see him so badly, but I also wanted him to be okay, and was afraid he’d come out and not do well.

Cameron was delivered around 11 am in the morning. He came out screaming and yelling, which was already a great sign. We were waiting to see how his heart would adjust to the pressure change when he began to use his lungs, and the fact that he carried on screaming and yelling for a good thirty minutes was a amazing sign. They quickly rushed him out of the room and into an adjacent room where the cardiology team was waiting. B went to join him in the next room while they sewed me up, and the whole time I could hear my baby crying, and I loved it.

Eventually, they brought the baby back in for me to see, and he was just as beautiful as his brother was when he was born. Beautiful, pink, and looked perfectly healthy. They didn’t have to give him oxygen, bag him…nothing. He was free of leads and tubes and machines. I asked to nurse him, and they even let me go back to my room and nurse him there for twenty minutes, which apparently doesn’t happen often. They are supposed to take him right to the cardiology intensive care unit (CICU) for monitoring, but since he was doing so well, they let me nurse him in peace, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for those moments before they took him to the CICU.

I had to wait until my spinal wore off enough for me to get on my feet and in a wheelchair so I could go to the CICU to see Cameron again. That took about four hours, and I was determined to get out of that bed to see him. I found it remarkable that it took me only four hours to get on my feet after this surgery, compared to my last c-section, when they didn’t try to get me out of the bed until the next day. It was not easy, nor painless, but I did it, and I got to be wheeled around to the CICU to see my baby.

The worst thing about CICUs/NICUs is that you are not alone with your  baby. You are surrounded by babies who are much worse off than yours, or better than yours. In our case, thankfully, Cameron was doing really well, but that made it even harder when he was sharing a pod with three other babies who weren’t doing well at all. In fact, we had to leave the pod the next morning because one of the babies was having his chest closed after surgery, and we wouldn’t have been allowed in the pod during the procedure.

I won’t bore you with all the details over the next few days we were there in the CICU. Cameron was moved into an overflow pod with new babies, one of which was born the same day he was, another who was one year’s old and was there with what sounded like croup, and then another baby who was just weeks old and was transferred from another hospital. I very often think of  Cameron’s birthday buddy, and I think of his mother, who sat by his bed all day long, unable to hold him, but kept her hand on him the whole time. I think about that mother and I try to channel her strength on days that I think are hard, but aren’t anything compared to her burden.

The sucky thing about my stay at CHOP was that on Tuesday night (Cameron was born Monday afternoon), the charge nurse explained that we’d be getting a roommate in our room because the SDU (special delivery unit) was filling up, and they didn’t have another choice. This also meant that B couldn’t sleep in my room anymore. So, we started the scramble of trying to find out where B could sleep, since the Ronald McDonald House was full so far, as were all the local hotels. Wednesday and Thursday were stressful because of this, but B was able to secure a sleep room on the same floor for Wednesday night, and they managed to wiggle us in for a sleep room for Thursday night, after I was discharged, so I could continue to nurse Cameron and pump through the night.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Cameron was discharged on Friday, a mere four days after his birth. We were originally told he’d be in the CICU for two to three weeks, and to be let home sooner than a week was just amazing and welcome news. He would have been let home on Thursday, but he was struggling with his sugar levels and with feedings, so they wanted to monitor him for one more day to be sure his sugars got under control.

It was a trying week, but at least it was only a week. I remind myself often that Cameron is lucky — his outcome could have been worse. God has been listening to the prayers that many people have offered on Cameron’s behalf. The universe took all the positive energy that others had sent our way, and directed it to Cameron’s body to help heal him.

We’ve been home now for a week, and Cameron has been doing very well. He’s not nursing at the breast as much as I want him to, but I am trying to stay positive about it. This will come. It will come in time, just as it did with K. His cardiologist saw him this week and was very happy with his progress. They found two other developments with his heart, but those weren’t anything to worry about right now, and so, I’m not going to. He even made his urologist happy in that his right kidney is functioning well, he is urinating just fine, and there’s nothing to do but wait and see when it comes to this as well.

Thank you all for reading, and thank you for praying, especially. Please continue to do so for Cameron, and also for the rest of the babies at the CICU right now, some of which have been there for their whole lives, and some of which will never leave there.

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Unwillingly Becoming a Heart Mom

31 Weeks. At 31 weeks, you are supposed to mostly be in the clear, as far as all the “big issues” go. You’ve already made it through the first trimester. You’ve already made it through the big anatomy scan, which is nerve-wracking enough as it is. When you are done with that, and all has been marked as being developmentally normal, you just try to make it through the third trimester and all its uncomfortable nuances.

At 31 weeks, after attending a routine scan to follow a low risk kidney issue marked on our son’s 20 week anatomy scan, we were thrown for a loop as the sonogram technician spent way too much time watching our baby’s heart. As soon as she left, I turned to my husband and said, “Something is wrong. They never watched his heart for that long before.” But what could possibly be wrong now that wasn’t seen on the previous five ultrasounds?

We learned shortly thereafter that our son had some sort of defect with the right side of his heart. The Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor didn’t want to say too much about it, I suspect, because she didn’t know too much about it. We had to wait a whole week to be sent to the pediatric cardiology team at Johns Hopkins to find out that our baby had a very rare defect called Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia, and that everything that had been smooth sailing for the past eight months was to be thrown right out the window.

Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia means that his tricuspid valve, between the right aorta and right ventricle, is allowing blood to flow backwards between the two chambers. It should only be going in one direction, and that is through his pulmonary artery and into his lungs. Right now, it is classified as a “moderate” regurgitation…but this can change at any moment. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpless about anything, as we wait to get through the rest of this pregnancy and pray that the condition doesn’t worsen.

Everything about this otherwise healthy pregnancy, I feel, has been stolen from me. My plan to VBAC (a plan which was going smoothly, by the way), is no longer on the table. I can no longer attend the midwife/OB practice I’ve been going to for the last eight months — I have to now see a MFM at Hopkins to be monitored more closely. Actually, I am going to see them, AND I am going to start commuting to Philadelphia once a week so I can be seen at CHOP and hopefully deliver there.

My baby is most likely going to be in NICU. My hopes for an easier breastfeeding journey this time around have also been taken away. I know I’m going to be hooked on a pump, away from my baby. I’m not going to have skin-to-skin. I won’t have delayed cord clamping. I won’t be able to let my oldest son hold my youngest son.I won’t be able to take my son home right away. I won’t be able to go home right away. We won’t be able to share him with our family. I don’t know what I am going to have, to be honest. I don’t even know if I’m going to have a healthy baby. Nothing is a given anymore. It’s all an unknown.

I have unwillingly become a “Heart Mom.” I’ve been adopted by a group of women out there who also have “Heart Warriors.” I have seen a ton of facebook pages following heart warriors and their journeys, and I never thought that I would personally be walking this road, too. I think of all those sick babies, all the pictures, all the happy and sad endings, and I wonder where I fit into all of it. How is my story going to end? How sick will my son be? That’s one of the hardest parts of this all — I still don’t know just how severe this is, and I won’t until he is born. It’s all very much a waiting game.

My very supportive friends and family keep telling me that I am allowed to make the tough decisions, I’m allowed to let go to the expectations that I had all of this time, and I’m allowed to mourn all of it. Inside, I know the things I am letting go are very small in the long run, and that I am going to do whatever I have to do to give the best chance and care to my son; but I am still mourning it. I am still astonished that I’m a Heart Mom. I still don’t understand how I got here.

I was 31 weeks along. Nothing like this was supposed to happen.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we traverse our new normal for the next month or so. Please pray that our baby remains relatively healthy, and that his heart continues to beat strong. Pray that I can maintain a positive attitude, that my mood doesn’t tank, that I can manage my depression and anxiety well enough to keep my head above the water as I struggle with suppressing feelings for the good of not stressing out baby, but also allowing myself to emote in some way so that it all doesn’t boil over.

Thank you. ❤

 

24w5d: Anxiety

Everything is still going great. Just a break down of some points in my pregnancy:

1.It’s another boy. I had a day filled with tears and gender disappointment, but thankfully, I processed it quickly and it isn’t bothering me as much anymore. If you don’t know what gender disappointment is, it is basically like mourning a child you will never have. This is probably our last child, and I was very upset at not having the girl that I wanted — but I am happy and relieved that our new baby boy is healthy and on track. I am also excited about the idea that K will have a baby brother and lifelong friend.

2. I am up about 15 lbs, which is right around what I gained with Kaiden at this time, if not a bit more. I’m okay with this.

3. We have another scan in two weeks to check on baby’s left kidney, which was a smidge enlarged at our last ultrasound. We had additional genetic testing done to rule out any trisomies, and thankfully, they came back clear. I am hoping all stays okay, and am not worrying too much about the scan.

4. I’ve been dealing with SI Dysfunction/Pain. Your SI joint is your pelvis joints on each side of your hips. I have a mild case of scoliosis and arthritis that flares up in my back, and pregnancy has triggered the pain to flare. Of course, it’s normal to hurt and ache during your pregnancy, but some days I can barely works, and that sucks when you have to chase a very active toddler around. I started to go back to the chiro to manage the pain.

5. I’ve been having a difficult time with my anxiety and “intrusive thoughts” which mostly consist of death and dying. This is normal in pregnancy, but when you already suffer from anxiety on top of this, it makes it a million times worse. I am under the care of my psychiatrist for it, so it’s not unchecked. Just have to keep using my coping tools to get through, since there’s not much else for me to do at this point.

6. My toddler decided, out of no where, that he wanted to be potty trained. This came a month after my disaster of trying to do a three day training with him (which you can read about in my other blog) and worry that he won’t be accepted into his Montessori school that we put a deposit down on. This has been nice, because I don’t have to stress about it as much anymore, and because it goes a LOT easier when he actually WANTS to potty train. We have been mostly accident free for three days now, and only wearing pull ups or diapers during nap and bedtime.

 

9w2d: Two more Ultrasounds and a Graduation

So, everyone who has successfully been through fertility treatments before knows that you have a “graduation” day, when your RE releases you to your OB, and you never have to step foot back in the RE’s office again until you DAMN WELL WANT TO. It’s a great day.

That day was on Friday for me. I took my mom to my last sonography appointment with the RE, which she was super excited about. I was 8w5d on Friday, and baby measured 8w5d exactly. Heart rate was 178. I met with my nurse, and she gave me a big hug, along with my sonogram reports and said I was graduated from the clinic. The doctor shook my hand and my mom’s hand, and we walked right on out of there without looking back.

It’s a sad feeling, really, because the clinic becomes a part of you and your routine, and then suddenly…it’s just not there anymore. It is also a relief, don’t get me wrong. I am happy to not return.

My RE called me later on (since she wasn’t in office that day), and she tearfully told me congrats and to update her when the baby is born. Of course, the tears in her voice immediately made me sniffle and tear up as well. If it wasn’t for Dr. B., I wouldn’t have tried the IUI at all. I would have been pushed into IVF again, which was the next logical step…but I didn’t want to follow logic. I wanted to follow my heart.

Yesterday, at 9w2d, I saw my midwife for the first time. I got to see another ultrasound of the baby, which was much clearer than the one at the RE. The RE told me that the baby was way back in the uterus, and because it was so far away from the vaginal wand, they couldn’t get a clear picture. The scan at the OB office was done abdominally, and I got to see the baby wiggle around, little arm buds and all.

The appointment went well. Heart rate was 161 bpm, and everything still measured on time. My midwife sounds confident about my VBAC, but she said I won’t sign consent papers until around 20 weeks, when they have a better picture of the pregnancy.

I go back in a month and meet with another midwife who will decide if I risk out of the midwifery practice or not. The only reason, at this point, why I would is because of taking metformin. Even if I am not diabetic and I am taking it for PCOS and lowering my chances of miscarriage, she said that it automatically means I need to be reviewed.

I also have to have an early glucose screen done, which is going to suck, but meh. I need to eat better these next few days, and hopefully I can do the test on Friday.

Here’s my wiggle worm. When I see this picture, I hear my son going “Beep” for some reason. He likes to “beep” the fish in the fish tank. 😛

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6w4d: Ultrasound #2

I forgot to post on Friday, but ultrasound #2 went great! I was 6w4d, baby was measuring 6w4d, and had a heartbeat of 140 bpm. I go back in two weeks for my third and final ultrasound, and then I “graduate” to my OB. How exciting!

6w4dI’ve been feeling great, for the most part. Exhaustion is still getting the best of me, and headaches/threatened migraines have been an issue. Also, the bloating and gas has been unreal. Sorry for the TMI, but I feel like a toot machine. It’s super uncomfortable, and I already hate wearing pants. I want to find my bella band from my last pregnancy, but I have absolutely no idea where it went, and I am too annoyed to actually go buy another one, because wtf…I am only 7 weeks pregnant. That shouldn’t be a thing yet, right?

 

5w5d: First Ultrasound

Today was my first OB ultrasound with my RE. We saw a good-sized sac, but that was it so far. It’s still early, so while I am trying not to worry (and my RE told me not to worry), I still worry a little bit that this was all just some cruel joke. But, my son didn’t have a hb at 6w5d, and we finally saw it at 7w4d, so I need to be patient. I go back in next Thursday to check again.

How have I been feeling? Tired. Very tired. I don’t have any sort of morning sickness or the like. Sometimes, I have some cramps in my back, but that’s about it. I am also hungry a lot. I am eating without much remorse, since I know that soon I will not want to eat at all. I didn’t have morning sickness much with my son, but I did have general food aversion where I didn’t want to eat because…well, I didn’t. I just wanted to drink water.

Anyway. Keep thinking of me. ❤

4 Weeks: Still Sinking In

Tomorrow marks  fourteen days past IUI, or the end of my TWW. It also means I am officially four whole weeks pregnant. Still seems crazy to me, and I’m not sure it’s completely sunk it yet, since I keep saying to myself, “How did this work, but all the cycles I had to do to get my son didn’t?” This is a question that wasn’t meant for me to answer.

As it went with my son, I don’t feel very pregnant at all. I was pretty dizzy yesterday, which I was at around 8 DPO when I joked with my husband, “Maybe this means I’m pregnant.” Little did I know.

Mostly, though, I am beyond exhausted, which I’ve been trying to hide from my husband, since he doesn’t know I’m pregnant yet. This would clue him in right away, because when I was pregnant with my son, I could barely function I was so tired. Those days, I’d sneak home during lunch period at work and take a quick nap. After work, I’d nap, and then I’d go to bed at 8pm and sleep until 8 pm the next day. He would be tipped off right away.

This is why I didn’t tell him that on Thursday, after teaching, I came home and decided to take a quick rest before doing my housework (which I do before picking up the kid from daycare). A “quick rest” turned into a four hour long nap. Yesterday, the same thing happened. My student canceled her lessons, so I decided to grab a “quick nap” that ended up being nearly four hours long too. Oops.

The only other symptom I’d accredit to pregnant would be my soft connective tissue hurting. My joints hurt on and off, but nothing too bad.

My beta was supposed to be tomorrow, but I moved it to Monday. I stopped taking pregnancy tests and my temperature, since it serves no purpose anymore. My lines are progressing really nicely, and that’s all I needed to see. Of course, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about how the FET ended up…but those thoughts don’t do me any good, so I try to shove them out of my mind and think about something more positive — like which hospital by me will be VBAC friendly, and where I will find a good midwife to support me.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my line yesterday, at 12 DPO:

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TTW: The Torture and Bliss

We all hate the Two Week Wait (TWW). It’s a time where you are absolutely, fucking helpless, and you have to go through every hour wondering if your treatment worked, or if it failed and you’ll have to go through it all over again.

I’ve been quiet the last week or so, mostly because I needed to keep myself busy. Waiting through this is even worse when you had to trigger, since that means you need to wait for one dose of HCG to leave your system before you know for sure if your lines (if you have them) are real or not.

I filled my days with playing with my son, going to visit family and trying my best to relax. Last night, I had a meltdown about my kid being needy, about my sex drive tanking because of these fucking hormones, and just about being in this place again where I feel less like a woman and more like a broken shell of what should be a woman.

I am 10 DPO today. I tested out my trigger. I’ve been testing with FMU since 7 DPO.

Today, though, I got my BFP.

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This is terrifying to me. I cried and begged God to let this one stay. I begged him to not let this be fake. I put my hands on my face and begged this baby to stay with me…please stay with me.

My beta is five days away. It would be four days away, but I am pushing it forward an extra day so I won’t have to travel an hour to the clinic.

I am overjoyed…I am scared…I am confused how an IUI could work when nothing ever worked in the past. I am grateful that maybe I won’t have to do IVF again afterall.

Through all of this, I ask myself “How” and then remember that some answers aren’t meant to be known.

Please, stay, baby. Please, please, please stay.

 

 

IUI #1 – Scan #5

Just a quick update! My follicle was 22mm today. Yay! I trigger tonight and the IUI will be on Sunday.

I am trying very hard to be optimistic. It is hard to be optimistic about an IUI when IVFs and a FET have already failed you. Can my body do this? I don’t know. But, we will find out!