Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Baby Story

Things are starting to settle down into some semblance of normalcy...if that can actually be defined with a newborn in da crib. Literally.
Reagan Elizabeth was ushered in, a week earlier than planned, two weeks earlier than was due, on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 4:58am. As was suspected, she weighed between 9 and 10 pounds at 9 pounds, 7 ounces and was 21 inches long.

I went into labor on Sunday evening, with contractions 3 minutes apart for over an hour. I was reluctant to go to the hospital being nearly sure that the contractions would stop. Like they usually do. When the nurse actually captured 2 of them on the monitor, I felt validated. When the nurse told me that I was dilated to a 1, I was ecstatic. I had never been dilated before! This meant that my body was doing something to prepare for the baby...and I wasn't crazy. Unfortunately, my team of medical professionals would not be doing anything to stop this labor. I would not be going home without a baby. At 9:30pm, we were told that we would either have a baby "now" or first thing in the morning.

I was in a dead panic. We (read: I) were not prepared to have a baby. What about the girls? My doctor was not on call. I didn't have any clothes. I couldn't even think of what I might need. I was supposed to get a pedicure this week. My swanky nursing pajamas hadn't arrived yet.

We alerted the media. My parents, scheduled to arrive the following Sunday for a birth that was to occur on the 3rd, would not be able to come until Tuesday. Of Brian's parents, scheduled to arrive Saturday before the birth, only Gran was able to come, and not until Monday afternoon.

For the current problem of what to do with the girls all night while we wait for a decision to be made by those in the know (because I wasn't going anywhere), thank God for Ashlee, our babysitter. She was not working at her regular job Sunday night and was able and willing to come and stay all night with the girls while Brian stayed with me. She even offered to skip her classes on Monday, in case we needed her.

From 8pm until 3:30am, we waited and I contracted every 3 minutes. After hours and hours of watching the clock and trying to rest, my nurse barged in the room and threw on the overhead light. Within 30 minutes, all parties would be there to start the surgery. After hours of "hurry up and wait", their efficiency was nerve-wracking.

The nurse anesthetist showed up and yes, I actually asked her if she was well-rested. I had no problem having a baby during normal business hours, but I've read too many scary medical stories in Reader's Digest about after hours procedures. (And this is not a big city hospital...all these people had been sleeping snug in their beds.) She said she'd had about 3 hours of sleep. In my opinion, that's not well rested. Personally, I can hardly make coffee when I've had only 3 hours of sleep. Honestly, this was my 3rd baby, my 3rd set of doctors and my 3rd surgery and she was by far the best anesthetist of them all. She had very kind eyes, the only part of her that I could see. She had me facing away from all the "equipment" to keep me from being anxious. She had the drape as far away from my face as could be managed and told me that I could have my hands loose. When she saw me using those loose hands to scratch and scratch, she gave me a shot of Benedryl. I never got nauseous, much less threw up. She even held the baby so I could kiss her.

Recovery is always fun...I never know what is going on even though I try earnestly to pay attention. I do remember hearing it took over 2 hours and many, many sticks to start Reagan's IV. Actually, I don't remember much of the first day. People came to visit and later when I tried to remember, it seemed like a dream.

Reagan was not allowed to come out of the nursery because of transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) which is fancy doctor talk for fast breathing. Apparently, it's a condition most often seen in big, fat babies delivered by C-section. Too much fluid in the lungs causes the baby to breathe fast. Normally, most of the fluid would be pushed out during delivery. The problem is not unusual and tends to right itself in a day or two, sometimes less. After 3 days of little improvement (and no nursing....could be too stressful for the baby to suck and try to breathe) our pediatrician called a neonatalogist at the children's hospital in Fort Worth for a second opinion. That doctor wanted her to be transferred to that hospital for an echocardiogram to ensure that there wasn't more to the problem. Apparently, fast breathing could be a symptom of an infection, a heart problem, etc., etc., etc.

Wednesday, my doctor discharged me and Reagan was transferred to Cook's Children's Hospital in Fort Worth. I tried to be strong while the doctor was talking to me...but I was in shock. Just the night before, he assured us that there was only a 10% chance that she would need to be transferred. When the sweet nurses asked me how I was doing, I started crying. Something was wrong with the baby, no one knew exactly what it was and I was all alone. Brian hadn't made it in from the plant yet. Then the transport team showed up with the contraption they use to transport those sick babies and I was inconsolable. It's a gurney with an incubator and machines and leads and oxygen and scary medical stuff. They assessed the baby and took her to Fort Worth. Brian and I went home to get some clothes and things. We had no idea what to expect when we got to Fort Worth.

Reagan was re-routed to Baylor All Saints. The NICU there was spectacular. Everyone from the department head to the baby's daily nurse went above and beyond. The doctor was the same one there every single day. When we weren't there and called to see about her, the nurses never acted like it was an inconvenience to answer our questions.

All tests indicated it was TTN and little by little, her respirations were slowing down. On Thursday, the neonatalogist finally let her nurse and she did great. Until then, they'd been feeding her pumped breast milk and formula through a tube in her nose. Brian and I were driving back and forth to Fort Worth every day to visit her and then coming home in the evenings to Lily and Darcy worn to a frazzle and emotionally exhausted. Thank God for my mother-in-law who stayed with the girls and fixed dinner every night. I don't know how I would have coped.

After another brutal day of driving back and forth to Fort Worth and sitting by Reagan's bedside, I came home to find a large box in the living room. It was a Shower-In-A-Box from our friends back home. That was absolutely the most amazing thing. At a time I needed to know it the most, God used our friends to show us in a very tangible way that people were thinking about us, cared about us and were praying for us. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right moment.

The next day as we were preparing to go visit Reagan, her nurse called and told us that she would be discharged the next day if we'd like to "room-in" that night. I jumped at the opportunity. We ended up in a tiny little room in the corner of the NICU for nearly 24 hours. I got an extremely uncomfortable twin bed and Brian slept on a chair that folded out...standard hospital fare. No meals were provided. At least we did have a TV. I thought we'd end up playing 20 questions all night. I understand why they do this rooming in thing, but Brian thinks it's a racket. They charged us another day's room and board even though we did all the work and I provided all the board. Brian thinks that if she's well enough to "room-in" then she's well enough to go home and save us the money. I think they see a lot of sick babies and need to know that the parents know how to care for the babies before they send them home. Some of the babies go home with equipment. It just so happens that we've done this kind of thing before.

Finally, on Saturday, December 1st, on our 5th wedding anniversary, Reagan came home from the hospital. So far, she's doing well. Her stump has fallen off and she regained her birth weight (and then some) in the allotted time period. Her sisters are interested in her and don't like her to fuss for any reason. Our next goal: sleeping through the night. Last night, she went from 12:30am until 5am so we are well on our way.

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