Raina's Birth Story, Part 2 | Tuesdays with Jacob

Raina's Birth Story, Part 2

October 23, 2021


August 2021
When we left off we had just found out we were 22 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Everything had checked out ok on the ultrasound and my bloodwork and we were sent on our way with instructions to return in four weeks for my glucose test. We set up an ultrasound appointment for our anatomy scan for two days after the glucose appointment. I wouldn't make it to that ultrasound appointment. Those four weeks were... interesting. They started out fine. I felt tired and achy, nothing out of the normal for a woman in her second trimester. I helped out at Jacob's summer camp in the morning until it got too hot and I had to rest at home. I went back to work to prepare for the upcoming school year, and then the year started. That first week back to school I felt AWFUL. I must have looked it too because I got comment after comment about how miserable I looked and how I wasn't going to make it until November. (little did they know just how right they were) By the time my 26 week glucose test appointment rolled around four weeks later I was barely sleeping. I'd prop myself up with a dozen pillows and sleep for an hour before getting too uncomfortable and moving to our rocking chair. Dan would cocoon me in there with another dozen pillows and blankets and I would try to sleep sitting up. I'd get maybe an hour. Rinse, repeat, all night long. My back ached, my ribs ached, I felt generally ill. I could hardly stand up long enough to cook Jacob dinner and I had to make him push the cart at Trader Joes one day becuase I physically couldn't do it. I couldn't remember ever feeling so awful with Jacob, but maybe I had just blocked it out. After all, it was seven years ago. I voiced my concerns to my midwife and she suggested magnesium supplements, an abdominal support band, plenty of fluids, all things I was already doing. I was beyond miserable and felt like surely I was dying. Little did I know, I slowly was. 

August 17, 2021. The Doctor's Office
I went to school that Tuesday morning like normal. Dan met us in the parking lot after school because Jacob forgot his tablet and we had my lengthy glucose appointment. He gave Jacob his tablet, kissed me goodbye, and we went on our way. Neither of us expecting anything out of the normal to happen that day. My appointment started off normal enough. I got Jacob settled with his tablet, I drank the glucose, I had a telehealth appointment with my midwife who was unable to come into the office (likely a Covid exposure) and then the nurses tried to take my blood. It took three of them and four attempts, but they finally got what they needed. I expressed how awful I had been feeling. They said my vitals (including blood pressure) checked out ok and to keep hydrated and rest as much as possible. They'd let me know about the glucose results. I never did find out those results... I got Jacob settled on a couch in the lobby and then checked out. Right before we left I thought I ought to use the bathroom real quick because my bladder wasn't holding up too well this pregnancy and we were heading to cub scouts after. When I went to wipe, the toilet paper was pink. I had never had any spotting with Jacob or this pregnancy so I was immediately alarmed. I let the desk staff know what happened and the nurses assured me that as long as it wasn't bright red blood, I was fine. As they were explaning this to me I felt what I can only describe as a gushing feeling. I excused myself to the bathroom where I found bright red blood everywhere. I came back out, panicked and explained. One of the practices Obgyn's overheard me and suggested we go back to the ultrasound room to take a look. I was the last appointment of the day and my visit was telehealth with my midwife so there really was no reason for this doctor to still be there, but by some miracle he was. We grabbed Jacob and went back to the ultrasound room. The same room where I saw our tiny daughter on the screen for the first time four weeks ago. I sat Jacob in a chair and prayed he'd be too engrossed in his game on his tablet to notice what was going on. They had me change into a gown and I cringed when I sat down on the exam table, as it too was now covered in blood. The doctor studied the ultrasound for a while and then said that he thought he saw something, that it might just be a low lying placenta, but he wasn't sure. He wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out, stay overnight for monitoring and then mentioned that I'd probably be put on bedrest for a week or two to make sure the bleeding stopped. They gave me the choice of two hospitals, but strongly suggested I go the closer of the two. I asked if I had time to go home first and get my things, they said not to. I figured it wasn't a big deal, I could survive one night without my things. I took Jacob to the  car where I thankfully found a towel to sit on and then sent a bunch of texts. I told Dan I was being sent to the hospital and he should come home from work. I text my mom, then our cub scout leaders to let them know Jacob wasn't going to make it that night. Weeks later I would find his cub scout uniform and struggle to even remember why it was in the car. I drove to the hospital ten minutes away and my father in law met me there to take Jacob. 

August 17, 2021. The ER
Once Jacob left I tried to walk into the ER as calmly as I could. I was stopped at a desk and told to change my mask and fill out a Covid questionaire. The receptionist had several other people to help first and told me I could take a seat until my turn if I liked. I declined, too afaid I'd leave blood all over the seat. Once it was my turn and they were satisfied with my answers they sent me in to the ER. I waited in line to check in and prayed I wouldn't drip blood all over the floor. Once I was checked in and my license was checked and entered into the system they called over a security guard who walked me down to triage. 

August 17, 2021. Triage
In Triage I was given a bed and a gown and told to change. I expressed concern about all of the blood and was told not to worry about getting it on the gown or the bed. (why was I even worried about that?) Once I was changed I laid down on the bed and tried to take some deep breaths to calm down. Dan called, he was at the hospital but they wouldn't let him in unless I was going to deliver, Covid rules. He said he'd wait in the parking lot. I prayed I wouldn't have to deliver. 26 weeks was way too early. I text my team leader at school and my principal and told them I wouldn't be in the next day. And then I heard the lullaby. Does your hospital play a lullaby every time a baby is born? I never gave it a second thought before, but lying in Triage bleeding everywhere not knowing if I was going to have to deliver, or if I even could safely deliver and then hearing that lullaby and knowing someone else had safely delivered their baby was too much. I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my face. I heard it a total of three times in Triage and once in recovery and my anxiety grew each time. To this day I can't hear it without tearing up. Things started to pick up in triage. They put in an IV, which again took several nurses and several pokes. They took numerous vials of blood and sent them to the lab. An ultrasound technician came in and did an ultrasound. I knew by her constant searching that it wasn't good. She explained that the placenta had started to detach and that I had a blood clot the size of the baby and the placenta themselves. I asked nervously if she thought I would have to deliver and she said she didn't know, it would be up to the doctor. Bloodwork results started to come back from the lab and they weren't good. My blood pressure which had been on the high side of normal at my appointment a few hours ago had skyrocketed into dangerous territory. Noticably missing from the labwork was my platelet count. No one could tell me if I'd have to deliver, the doctor would decide. But the doctor wouldn't come in until all the labs were complete. A nurse came in and and I winced as they put in a catheter. Then another came in and I screamed as they put a steroid shot in my thigh. They explained it was for the baby's lungs and I started to feel an impending sense of doom that I was going to have to deliver that night. They finally got the doctor in and explained that the platelet count was taking so long because there were so few that they were having to hand count them. The doctor came in and talked to me about what was happening. He explained Pre-eclampsia, Hellp syndrome, and what an abruptured placenta was. He said we were going to have to do an emergency c-section right away. I tried to stay calm and just nodded. An anesthesiologist came in and explained the procedure to me. He explained an epidural and a spinal but then let me know there was a good chance they'd have to put me under general anesthesia if my platelets were too low. I thought that I would probably prefer that. I wasn't sure I could handle a spinal and being awake and knowing that there was emergency surgery going on on the other side of a curtain. I wasn't sure my heart would make it if she didn't survive. Then a neonatologist came in, and explained to me how sick I was and how sick my baby was going to be once delivered. I'll never forget her taking my hands, looking me in the eye and quietly explaining "If we don't deliver, neither of you are going to make it through the night." 

August 17, 2021. The OR
Finally they let Dan in and gave him a gown and hair cover to put on. I'm not actually sure why as he was never let into the operating room. They told me I needed to take off any jewelry or risk getting burns. My rings had been cut off weeks before but I still had in my earrings which had locking backs like screws. My numb hands struggled to get them out for a long time and I started to panic, but we did eventually get them out and into a little bag. Neither Dan nor I remembers what happened to that little bag but it didn't go with us and the diamond earrings he got me for Christmas were never seen again. They wheeled us down to the operating room where they gave Dan a seat out in the hall. I can only assume they feared our daughter might not survive delivery and thus didn't want him in there. The room was sterile and cold and they helped me move from the triage bed onto the operating table. Then the anesthesiologist explained that he was going to take off my Covid mask and put on the anesthesia mask. I could feel someone shaving my lower stomach and pubic bone, and then, nothing. Raina was born at 9:22 pm, weighing 1 pound, 15 oz. and measuring 13 inches long. She was a fighter. 

August 17, 2021. Recovery 
I remember waking up slowly, and being afraid to open my eyes. I heard voices and didn't want them to know I was awake. I didn't know if our daughter had survived delivery and was afraid for them to tell me. I coughed and it hurt and then everyone knew I was awake. Dan told me right away that Raina was in the NICU, that he had gone with her when they admitted her and that he had declined to cut the cord. He said that she was tiny, but hooked up to machines and doing ok. Phone calls were made to family and I was finally allowed to have some ice chips for my throat which ached from being intubated. It made me cough, which made my incision and stomach burn so I took as many ice chips as they'd let me as often as they'd let me. They showed me how to press a pillow to my stomach to help with the pain of coughing, sneezing, or laughing. I heard the lullaby again and while I could barely talk, tears fell silently down my face. At some point they decided I was awake enough and they rolled my bed down to an individual recovery room. It had no windows and they kept the lights and tv off. They said my blood pressure was still really high and that lights and noise could increase it. We tried to rest. Someone was constantly checking on me and taking vitals, but we tried to rest. At some point, might have been hours later, might have been the next morning (time meant nothing in a dark room) they started trying to get me to move a bit. First they just had me roll onto my side so they could change my bedding and gown and give me a sponge bath. Both Dan and a nurse helped me and it was still nearly impossible from the pain. I never realized before how much you use your abdominal muscles for absolutely everything. Later they tried to get me to sit up and I'm not sure I've ever felt pain like that. Eventually the next day they were satisfied with my embarassing attempts to sit up and they helped me into a wheelchair and moved us down to a regulary maternity room. 

August 18, 2021. The Maternity Wing
They got us settled into the room to rest and I couldn't help but notice our room was missing the standard bassinette that all the other rooms had. It made the room feel bigger and emptier than it should. Before leaving the recovery room they had taken out the catheter which meant I now had to go through the agonizing work of sitting up, getting out of bed and walking everytime I needed to go to the bathroom. I then had to walk again and get back into bed which was somehow even harder than getting out of bed. I couldn't do any step of that process on my own. Bless Dan who helped me just about every hour, all night long. The next day, after some food and vitals they brought me a breast pump and helped me try to get comfortable enough to use it. (impossible!) We got a tiny bit of colostrum and Dan helped me into a wheelchair to take it down the hall to our baby. 

August 18, 2021. The NICU
Being wheeled into the NICU was a little unnerving. I remembered it vaguely from Jacob's few days there for Jaundice, but it looked different. Or maybe my memories are just hazy. I remember entering a different way, so maybe it's been remodeled since. There are machines everywhere and one of them is almost always beeping. I used hand sanitizer on my hands since I still had an IV, and dan scrubbed in. We gave the colostrum to our nurse and then Dan pushed me over to her little isolette. I was afraid to look in, she was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. The nurse said we could reach in and touch her, but both Dan and I were afraid she was too fragile for that and chose not to. I sat there for the longest time, just watching her, watching all of her machines that she was hooked up to. I marvelled at the fact that she had been in my stomach just hours before, and that somehow, even 14 weeks early, she had made it out and survived. The nurses called her feisty and we knew that would serve her well in the days ahead.

We spent a grand total of six days in the hospital and all the days were pretty much the same. We'd try to rest in our room, even though it was quiet enough to hear all the babies in the other rooms crying. While all the other moms were probably wishing their babies would stop crying, we were wishing ours was with us doing so. I'd pump every few hours and we'd take it down and visit our baby. Every few hours someone would come in and take my blood pressure and temperature, check my incision scar. At least once a day or night my blood pressure would sky rocket again so we couldn't be discharged the next day. Finally on the sixth day things were under control enough that we were given discharge papers. We visited our baby in the NICU one last time and then left the hospital empty handed. It is without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever had to do. We've visited her every day since and she continues to grow and get stronger. She's up to 5 1/2 pounds and we're hoping that if she starts taking bottles better that we can have her home for Thanksgiving. 

Our little miracle babe, conceived against all odds. 
Our little chameleon, hiding out for 22 weeks undetected. 
Our little warrior, fighting for her life at just 26 weeks. 
Our little grand finale, making absolutely sure she's the last of her kind. 
We love her so. 

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