It’s amazing how much your life can change in the blink of an eye – or seven days as is the case since my last DTT reflection. Seven days ago, I was a pregnant mother of one preparing for the birth of daughter and NAIT miracle number two. Today, I sit blogging from a recliner in the Women & Infants Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (or NICU) as the mother of two daughters, one at home snoozing snuggly in her crib, while the other naps comfortably on my chest. Before I get to the long-winded version of how we got here, let me be the first to introduce you, dear readers, to Elyse Lillian Henshall born at high noon on Friday, February 24th via cesarean section.
At birth, she was a plump six pounds, six ounces and a respectable 19 and one-quarter inches long – not too shabby for a 36-weeker.
So, where do I begin? Well, we might as well start from the beginning. I’ll try my best not to leave out any of the important details while sparing you the more mundane ones.
Day 1: February 24th – Happy Birthday, Elyse!
Taylor and I arrived at the hospital two hours before my scheduled c-section to complete the necessary forms and surgery preparation process. I was fairly anxious, nervous, hungry and parched (thanks to the preoperative orders that restricted eating or drinking after midnight) when we arrived. As you know from last week’s post, I was mentally, physically and emotionally ready to meet my daughter. After getting admitted and changed into the super cute Johnny, I passed the time leading up to the surgery by getting my IV, meeting with doctors and nurses and checking my Facebook and email, of course. Surprisingly enough, I was wheeled into the operating room right on time at 11:30 a.m. and Elyse was born, screaming her little head off, exactly 30 minutes later. I will never forget the moment that I heard those long-awaited cries and screams. I looked at Taylor, who was sitting at my head, began to cry and said, “She’s here. We did it.” He looked back at me and smiled with tears in his eyes, the proud father of another little girl. There are only two other times in my life that I have seen that very same expression on his face – when I walked down the aisle back in June of 2005 and on the day that Clara was born.
Elyse – whose name had been determined before birth – was immediately taken by the pediatric nurses and her assessment began. A CBC (or complete blood count) was drawn and immediately rushed to the lab so that it could be determined whether or not she would be admitted to the newborn nursery or the NICU. The initial platelet count came out of her cord and registered in at a very acceptable 102,000. Remember, the goal was to get at least a count of 100,000, so she passed her first test. Thank you, IVIG and prednisone. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the platelet count that landed her in the NICU – it was the fact that she was having trouble breathing. Because Elyse was showing signs of respiratory distress and had a fair amount of fluid in her lungs, she was taken to the NICU before I came out of surgery.
While I lay in recovery snacking on some ice chips, Taylor bided his time tending to me and sending off emails and texts sharing the news of Elyse’s safe arrival. After spending almost three hours getting the feeling back in my lower body (while simultaneously controlling a terrible case of the shakes), I was wheeled into the NICU to get my first real peek at Elyse before heading to my own room for the night. At that point, I was too focused on my own recovery to be upset by the fact that Elyse would not be sharing a room with me, something that I was really hoping I’d get to experience.
Back in my own room, I learned that most of the fluid had been removed from my new daughter’s lungs, but she was still having trouble breathing, so she was given an oxygen hood to help alleviate a bit of the work for her. Another CBC was drawn, this time from her foot, and showed a platelet count of 81,000, about 20,000 points lower than her previous reading. Because this reading was now lower than 100,000 cut-off point, Elyse had definitely earned her NICU stay.
Our parents and siblings came to visit both Elyse and I – dividing their time between my room on the fourth floor and hers in the NICU just below me on the third. Elyse was stable and doing well, but as the hours ticked on, I began to have some problems of my own. I’ll spare you the gory details, but a few hours after my surgery, I began hemorrhaging, as my uterus wasn’t properly contracting. I ended up losing about two pints of blood and gave myself, as well as my parents, in-laws and siblings a pretty good scare. I was closely monitored throughout the night and felt much better by the next morning. Unfortunately, because I had donated a pint of blood on the Wednesday before the surgery in case Elyse needed my platelets after birth (which, thankfully, she did not), I was now down three pints and starting to feel the effects of anemia.
Day 2: Mr. and Mrs. Henshall, Meet Brady (not the quarterback, the breathing disorder)
After my little bleeding episode on Friday night, I felt very weak and tired on Saturday. I did manage to get down to the NICU to hold Elyse for the first time, but my visit was a short one, as I had developed a severe headache in reaction to the blood loss. While I was upstairs recovering from my little spell, Elyse began having some spells of her own. Because of her premature respiratory system, Elyse was being affected by a condition called Bradypnea, or an abnormally slow breathing rate. So, although her platelet count was now climbing (her reading from Saturday morning was 113,000), she was being kept in the NICU because she kept experiencing Bradys, or times when her breathing would become really slow. Sometimes, it gets so slow, that she needs to be stimulated in order to “come back.” In the NICU, they refer to these times/episodes as spells. Over the course of the last six days, Elyse has experienced anywhere from one to multiple spells on any given day. Until she can go “spell –free” for at least 72 hours, she can’t come home.
So, now all we can do is sit here and wait for her to “grow out” of this normal late pre-term baby behavior. And while I wait and Elyse sleeps on my chest making her adorable little baby noises, the second half of this blog post (to come sometime within the next day or two) begins to take shape…
NOTE: Better pictures to come in Part II once I get a chance to upload them from the camera.