Sunday, September 28, 2008

Zoe's labour story

After a healthy and uneventful pregnancy (we had one small scare when they were unable to see her bladder and thought she had hydronephrosis but we were never very concerned with it), I prepared to leave work for a year. Being from the States, it felt very odd to prepare for a year maternity leave. None of my friends had ever done it. It was always return to work in a three months or leave your job (some friends were not even lucky enough to get the 12 weeks off). Gavin and I were more than prepared. Our hospital bags and carseat were ready to go since week 36 (it was a good thing we installed it at that time since if we had waited any longer, I don't think I would have fit in the car to help with installation!) I was excited to leave work and to tell the truth, I was unsure if I would truly return in a years time. A big part of me always wanted to be a stay at home mom and was hoping Gavin would secure a permanent position during my leave time. All of that was a year off, so I just focused on getting ready for the birth.
So I worked until three days before the baby was due and began having contractions on and off soon after I left work. Silly me kept thinking "this is it!" especially after one event of contracting for twelve hours straight with the contractions happening closer and closer together. However, the contractions would eventually stop and I began to realize this is not it. I had to start going to the midwife pretty regularly (every few days at first and then every day in the end). The midwife told me I was already a few cms dilated and so I really began to think "this is it!" I come from a very large family with lots of births every year and they are all healthy and uneventful for the most part. So, although I knew about getting induced or C-section, I never thought those things would be part of my baby's birth plan.
And so the week passed with me going to the midwife for stretch and sweeps of my cervix (just about as comfortable as it sounds) and us trying every trick in the book to convince the baby to come on out. I even bundled up (remember this was February in Canada) a couple of times a day and waddled around the neighbourhood until my feet were numb hoping that the activity would start labour. Now we know that kids with 1P36 lack the muscle tone to initiate the labour process. Although my body was doing its job- I was 4cm by the time I was induced, Zoe was just not programmed to come out yet.
After I was ten days over due and feeling pretty anxious, I went for an ultrasound to see how the placenta and amniotic levels were doing. We knew the baby was fine since Zoe was always very active and kicked me non-stop. We also had our own stethoscope and listened to the heartbeat several times a day. So we assumed that all would be well. At that ultrasound we found out two things. One, the baby was very small for its gestational age- they estimated it was six pounds three ounces. Two, the baby had something seriously wrong with its heart. The heart defect they thought the baby had was fatal and it was most likely not going to survive the birthing process. We were told to go home, relax, enjoy the weekend, and then show up on Monday to be induced if I had not gone into labour before that time. Because the baby was so small, they wanted to give it as much extra time as possible to build fat and strength before inducing me. The good news was that the placenta and amniotic levels were fine, so for now the baby was in the best place it could be.
To say we were devastated just doesn't really explain how we were feeling. After having so many normal ultrasounds where the baby was a perfect size, we were confused. Why it had suddenly stopped growing? Was it the heart defect? Is that why the baby was so small? If the baby survived birth, it had a 75% chance that it would die in the first few days. We didn't know what to do. Do we tell people? Do we just "relax and enjoy our weekend, haha?" In the end we decided not to alarm our families. Since we weren't 100% sure of what was going on, we decided to hold off. We spent most of the weekend crying, listening to the baby's heartbeat while crying, eating while get the picture. We also continued our attempts at inducing labour.
Monday morning we showed up for another ultrasound and the tech was the same one from Friday. He looked horrified and said, "Why are you still pregnant? You should have been induced." Then the tech called in someone else who happened to know someone at Sick Kids and was able to set up a fetal echo for us. So, we would be able to find out exactly what was going on with the baby's heart before birth. That way, if birth would be too much stress on the baby's heart, we could plan a C-section. We had five ultrasounds that day and heard a few different hypotheses thrown around as to why the baby was small and what was wrong with the heart. The fetal echo showed right ventricle hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle) and we were told that at most the baby would spend a few days in the hospital and would be fine. We were overjoyed by this news. We now know that this was partly correct, but Zoe had five other heart defects along with the hypertrophy. The last ultrasound of the day we were able to see the baby peeing. It was kind of cool, despite the fact that we were so exhausted by that point.
Meanwhile, there was a gasket in an OR room that blew. What this meant was that the hospital we planned to birth at, the hospital my midwife had rights at, was not inducing anyone. When you start an induction, there is always a chance of needing a C-section. So, we were not able to start induction that Monday. People kept reassuring us that the placenta and fluid looked good which is why they did not consider the baby at risk so they could put us off another day or two. Someone mentioned returning Friday for induction and I think I shrieked at them "Are you kidding me!" Yes, I knew the baby was technically fine, but I also knew the risk of staying pregnant past 42 weeks. Our midwife (I can not say how glad we were to have midwives at this point and later) advocated for us to start induction on Tuesday. So, we left the hospital on Monday with a plan to return Tuesday. As a last ditch attempt at starting labour, I took caster oil that evening. The only thing it succeeded at was cleaning out my bowel! No contractions.
Tuesday we returned to the hospital with our bags packed and feeling quite anxious to get this all started. We wanted the reassurance of seeing that the baby was fine and to get a proper echo right away to find out what was really going on with the heart. We ended up sitting around the hospital all day Tuesday and were told to return at midnight (some emergency pts had shown up and therefore we were bumped).
We went home for a few hours of sleep. Returning at midnight for the induction was surreal. We parked at Sick Kids since it is right across from the hospital I would give birth at and we now knew that the baby would be transferred to Sick Kids after birth. The hospital was deserted and there was so much snow on the ground, I felt like we were on a movie set. They lock the doors of both hospitals that face University Ave which meant that a normally 5 minute walk took us about 20 mins. I was jogging and sweating up a storm and thinking "If this doesn't start labour, I don't know what will!"
After finally getting settled in our room, a doctor came to tell us that the induction would not be starting at midnight. The reason we were given is that all of the NICU beds were taken and if the baby needed any resuscitation after the birth, it would be very dangerous without the NICU bed space. At the time we were very annoyed at this reason, but given how Zoe did need resuscitation and the NICU bed after birth we are now very grateful for this doctor for being so careful. At this time (and earlier in the process) we were given the choice to go to another hospital. We loved our midwife and felt completely comfortable with her care. We did not want to switch hospitals because she would not be able to follow us. So, we decided to get some sleep. Even our midwife slept at the hospital with us that night. She did not want to miss the call if they suddenly gave us the green light to go ahead.
The next morning (Wednesday), our midwife advocated for us to move into one of the swanky new birthing suites. It had a tub room, TV, etc. Not that we cared at that point. And because I was hooked up to pitocin the whole time, I wasn't able to walk around much or use the tub room. The extra room did come in handy when the repository therapist and doctors had to rush in when Zoe was born.
At noon on Wednesday, when I was 42 weeks plus one day, the pitocin was finally started. It finally hit me that I was going to be induced after all and I cried. I know, how could I just be getting it right? I guess up until that point I still hoped that I would go into spontaneous labour. I did not want pitocin because I did not want an epidural or pain meds. I decided to go without both despite the pitocin and I can tell you that was not a good idea. I know labour is never comfortable or much fun, but pitocin without drugs was more awful that I thought it could be. I have a high pain tolerance. Anyway, I will spare you the gory details. Many of us have been there, done that. I can say it was way more painful than I counted on but it made it all worth it in the end when I overheard a NICU doc say that it was a good thing that "mom didnt have any drugs on board because this kiddo was born so flat. Who knows if the kid would have made it if her apgar was any lower." And so, the pain was worth it because although we thought Zoe was dead when she was born, she was not and who knows if drugs would have caused her any problems. Or maybe I would have needed a C-section and I can't imagine coping with post-partem recovery of a C-section on top of being by Zoe's side in the NICU.
So that is the story of Zoe's labour. There was some other random things I was barely aware of since I was in so much pain. At one point there was a chemical spill and so the pitocin had to be stopped. The plus side is that I was able to unhook from the IV and get a hot shower which felt really nice and helped with the pain. Also at one point, a friend from work brought us some lunch (had I called her? I can't remember) but it was really nice of her to bring us food. So, thank you Cathy!
We will post more about Zoe's birth story later. I just want to say a huge thank you to my midwife, Robin. The back up midwife, Joyce. And the midwife student, who I can't remember her name even though she got up close and personal with me by holding my leg during the pushing faze (it is amazing how you don't care who sees you at that point!) Our midwives were awesome in all of their support during the pregnancy, labour, and after. They even got us tea and toast while we were waiting to hear how the baby was. And they visited us and Zoe in the NICU several times. I don't know any obgyns who would have taken such care of us physically as well as emotionally.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Can I get some more attitude with that sign?

I was trying to get some pictures of Zoe doing some signs so I decided to start with "all done." Here is a picture of Zoe saying "all done" with a whole lot of attitude (in her defence this was probably the 20th picture I had taken trying to get her saying a clear "all done"). I think she was saying she was all done with our photo session because she refused to do any more signs for the camera after "all done." Perhaps I will start with a different sign next time. Her all done is definitely nice and clear in this photo. And anyone who speaks sign language will know that the facial expressive part of the word is just as important as the sign itself!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bonjour Montreal!

Inspired by my sister-in-law, Jennifer, who goes away two weeks a year without my brother or their four children, I decided to celebrate Zoe weaning herself by going to Montreal with my friend Amanda. Anyone who knows what a challenge it was (for me and Zoe) to breastfeed will agree that I definitely deserved this trip. (If there is a 1P mom reading this and you want tips on breastfeeding your child, please feel free to ask. I did not find any helpful literature and I had only met one other mom who was able to breastfeed her 1P36 child and she reported that her child nursed much like her other children and therefore did not have the issues that Zoe did with feeding).
This was the first time I was ever away from Zoe for more than ten hours. I wasn't sure if I was going to break down crying, but I have to say I ended up having an awesome time. It was so nice to walk around the city with just a tiny purse and be able to do whatever I wanted. Amanda (being the great friend that she is) was up for anything so we just did a lot of walking around since it was such a gorgeous weekend. I did think of Zoe a lot during the weekend (especially when we got completely lost in the woods and I wondered if we would ever find our way out so I could see my baby again!), but I was able to enjoy my time away. Although I felt just as tired physically when I returned, I felt renewed mentally. I think in a lot of ways, Gavin and I are both so fatigued emotionally/mentally more than physically. (Although we are pretty tired physically too these days!) Our trip to Boston for the 1P36 conference was wonderful, but there is an emotional piece to seeing the other kids too. It is wonderful to see how well some of the kids are doing but it can be tough to be reminded about how far we have to go and what Zoe's future may be like. It was great to see everyone though, and as soon as we finish going through the pictures, we are going to post of few on the blog. 1P36 families are sharing pictures on the listserve as well.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fun fun colonoscopy stuff

This is Gavin's colonoscopy, not Zoe's. I'm clear for another 3 years, so all is good. Genevieve brought Zoe with us to the hospital and waited while I had the procedure. It was great having them wait with me and then being there when I woke up. She is such a good girl (both Zoe and Genevieve) - I'm lucky to have them both. Here's a couple of pictures of Zoe helping me wake up. It was so nice having Zoe there, though to be honest I don't remember much about it. Those drugs they give you are pretty effective! Not like the old days, I tell you.

Uncle Angus visits

Hey all,

We have had a busy time recently, so sorry for the lack of new updates. Uncle Angus (Gavin's brother) visited a couple of weeks ago. He is driving his motor bike from Calgary to Newfoundland (or as far as he gets), so hopefully he will have a good trip. Here is a picture of me enjoying some "family" time with my uncle.

While he was here he helped Daddy stain the front and back decks- we are still keeping the rest of the fence for him though on his return trip. He also helped break out Daddy's new reciprocating saw and prune (i.e. chop down) a huge shrub thing out front- Mommy, daddy and Angus all had a turn. Actually, I don't think it looks much better now, but maybe come spring?

We also just got back Monday from the 1P36 conference in Boston. Wow, that was a long drive! You can check out my friend Whitney's blog on what happened at the conference- her Daddy Nate is on top of things, man! So mommy and daddy are feeling kind of tired this week, and a little physically and emotionally worn out. Mommy is on a trip by train to Montreal this weekend with auntie Amanda (not an actual auntie, but close enough- she loves me (and mommy and daddy too, I guess) soooooo much). Anyway, they are off having wacky adventures no doubt, and daddy is here at home getting to wash my poopy diapers! Lucky Daddy.

Anyway, the conference was great. We got to see a bunch of my 1P36 friends, go swimming in the pool 3 times, see the fishes and penguins at the aquarium and lots of other fun stuff. More updates later- I will post some pictures when mommy brings the camera back from her trip.

That's all for now. I had an appointment at anesthesia clinic to get ready for my MRI in a month or so. There is some debate on getting IV access (I am a very tough stick) and safety/benefit versus risk etc so we are now waiting for one doctor to talk to another doctor then get back to us to hear if it is on. We'll see.

Love to all.