...And than an owl.|
...And than an owl.|
My husband Paul and I have an announcement, which we are very excited to share. We had our baby! Her name is Jane Amy Judy and she is perfect. She was born on August 18th 2015, at 7:31pm, weighing 9lbs 5oz and measuring 22 inches long. She is a big girl, and with lots of hair!
Jane is doing great; she is healthy, alert, and a great eater. Overall she is a calm newborn, she cries some (as do all newborns) but she is pretty easy to settle down, she sleeps reasonably well, and Paul and I are completely in love with her. We couldn’t have asked for a better baby and considering how difficult it was to get her here, we feel tremendously blessed to have a daughter who has been easy to care for overall.
Some of you are aware of everything that has happened the last two weeks, but I wanted to share the full story—both to update people who are interested, and to record it for myself while it is still very fresh in my mind. Having Jane, and the events that followed, have without a doubt been one of the toughest things I will experience in my life and I want to remember and learn from it.
Now, I think that is enough exposition, on with the story: How I got two major abdominal surgeries 6 days apart.
On Sunday Aug 16th (Jane’s official due-date) I was having pretty serious contractions at home, and we were thinking we would be headed to the hospital that night to have the baby. In the late afternoon the contractions stopped, so we didn’t end up going. On Monday, I thought that perhaps my water had broken, so I called my Doctor and she instructed us to go the hospital to get checked. She said it didn’t sound like my water broke, but a checking wouldn’t cause any harm. We went to the hospital around 5:30pm, expecting to be sent home but after they watched Jane on the fetal monitor for a while they decided it would be best to induce me. They said the baby was fine, but her heart rate wasn’t as reactive as they like to see, and since I was past my due date it would be best to go ahead and deliver her. They also let us know that she had turned slightly, so wasn’t in the best position for delivery, but the turn was slight enough they said we had a good chance of getting her to turn the correct way before I had to push. Paul and I were so surprised! We had been making dinner plans when the nurse came in and told us they wanted to induce me, but we were excited and happy to finally meet her. I was given Pitocin shortly after 9pm, and labor began.
I was in labor for a long time (from 9pm Mon the 17th , until 4pm Tues the 18th before I was fully dilated), during which time we tried everything we could to get Jane to shift her position. I had an epidural, so my pain was manageable, but it was still very difficult and NONE of our attempts to turn Jane were successful. At 4pm, I reached 10cm, and it was time to push. They turned off my epidural and I pushed for two solid hours. After those two hours I was exhausted, in tons of pain, and we had failed to progress. Jane’s brow bone couldn’t get passed my pubic bone, so in spite of my efforts she had not moved down the birth canal at all. The decision was made to perform a c-section. I was a little sad a first, but the surgery went very well and after she was delivered I felt doing it that way was the right decision. If you aren’t familiar with newborn sizes—a 9lb 5oz newborn is a LARGE baby, and I am a small person. Even if she had been perfectly positioned, delivering a baby her size would likely have left me very torn up.
Paul was there for the procedure. He cut her cord, and took her from the operating room with the nurses for her newborn care. I wasn’t able to hold her immediately after she was born, but they stitched me up quickly and we were all reunited in about an hour and a half.
That night was long, but wonderful. Everything went as planned, the surgery was done smoothly and Jane started eating right away without needing a coach. My parents came to the hospital to see her. We were taken to our recovery room and slept in between feeding the baby.
The next morning (Wed the 19th) I was feeling great. My incision looked great and there was very little pain, I was able to get up and walk around, and my doctors with pleased with the situation. The policy at the hospital where we had Jane allowed us to stay four days (since I had a c-section) but Paul and I figured we would only need three based on how well I felt.
There was a small thing that stood out to me however, I could feel air in my stomach. The nurses told me that is normal for ANY type of abdominal surgery, when they open you up and close you again air gets trapped inside and can cause pressure. The air has to dissolve into your organs, and you have to pass gas and have bowel movements to get it out of your system. There are lots of things a person can do to help the process along: walking, drinking tons of water, taking medications like antacids and stool softeners, using heat pads to encourage the air to move in the right direction, and more. Because I was eager to go home, and I did everything they said. But, as the days passed no relief came. The pressure in my abdomen grew and grew. My stomach became distended. My pain increased and my mobility decreased. The nurses were not discouraged and said that was normal, to just keep trying to have a bowel movement and pass gas. But the thing was, I never felt the urge. As the days stretched on, and my increasing pain made me more frantic for relief, the nurses upped their tactics. I was given two suppositories that produced no helpful results. I was given simethicone (a high-voltage antacid) every two hours and still nothing… Milk of magnesia... Prune juice cocktails…all ineffective.
Saturday came. The 22nd was our four day mark, and it isn’t totally unusual for c-section patients to leave the hospital before having their first “post-partum bowel movement” so even though I was still considerably uncomfortable, we were given our discharge instructions and prescriptions and sent home. Paul’s family had arrived for the weekend (they live in other states) and they were at home with us. They were so helpful, and it was wonderful to see them. But I was suffering. As the afternoon turned to evening, my pain continued to rapidly increase to higher and higher levels. I wish that I could accurately describe the pain. It affected my whole body. Every movement hurt. I couldn’t move from different normal positions (sitting, standing, laying down) without assistance. I didn’t want to eat. My belly swelled more and more. It looked like I was back to being seven or eight months pregnant. That night my mom stayed with Paul and I to help us care for Jane since I was having such a hard time. However, everyone tried to stay calm. Jane and I had a follow-up doctor’s appointment on Monday so we decided to just hold on until Monday, hoping that beforehand I would get some relief on my own.
Sunday (the 23rd) passed the same way—more and more pain. I walked as much as I could, I drank as much water as I could stand, I tried to use the bathroom. And still through it all I had no urge to pass gas or have a bowel movement. I WANTED to do those things mind you, because I wanted to stop hurting, but my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. By Sunday night I was going into shock from the pain. (We didn’t realize it at the time, but nurses have since confirmed that I had to be in shock at that point.) I had lost most of my color, I felt faint, I could hardly move on my own, I was becoming incoherent. My mom stayed with Jane and Paul took me to the emergency room. I was readmitted to the hospital after the ER took 4 x-rays, a CT scan, and blood tests. My bowel had ruptured.
No one on the Labor and Delivery unit could have guessed that this had happened to me. Rupturing your bowels is rare by itself, and the fact that it happened to a young, healthy woman like me is even more rare. Additionally, my early symptoms were identical to the regular, expected symptoms of a c-section so to make the leap from c-section pain to bowel rupture seemed too... “How could that possibly be the case?”… The fact that it wasn’t caught sooner wasn’t really anyone’s fault. It was good we came in when we did—I could have died.
The things I remember from the ER trip are scattered and kind of weird. I remember at home, when Paul told me where we were going and I felt so guilty because the ER is expensive. I remember being more thirsty in the ER than I ever recall being in my life, but the staff couldn’t let me drink until they had a diagnosis. I remember Paul standing next to my bed and holding me. I remember how pale my hand was next to his. I remember screaming because it hurt so bad to get into the positions they needed for the x-rays. I remember waiting for what felt like forever. I remember they placed my IV in my right arm at the elbow, and I am right handed so that limited my mobility. I remember people coming in and out of the room Paul and I were waiting in. I could stop myself from moaning and I remember the looks on the faces of people staring at me as we passed them in the ER halls when they moved my bed from place to place for tests. One thing I remember very clearly is the conversation I had with the surgeon when he arrived.
After two hours or so, the surgeon came in and explained to me that I needed immediate surgery. He was blunt but at that point I deeply appreciated it. All I cared about was stopping the pain, and that fact that he didn’t sugar coat what was happening was oddly reassuring. He said, “We’re going to have to cut you open and find the rupture. The human intestines are very large, and right now we have no idea where the rupture is. We’ll have to put all of your guts out on the table and look until we find it. Depending on where the rupture is and how the surgery goes we may have to give you a colostomy bag, which means a small section of your bowels would actually be outside of your body in a protected, sterile bag while the bowel heals. It all just depends on what we find when we open you up.”
They made preparations for my surgery very quickly. I don’t remember much about that. I remember they made me drink this horrible stuff—oh, it was so gross, like Kool-Aide mixed with chili powder and battery acid—and I remember saying good bye to Paul in the hall way. Even now, as I type this I am getting emotional. It was so hard and scary to say goodbye to him. I cried. Then they took me into the operating room.
And the next thing I remember I was waking up. Nurses were talking to me. I asked them for water, they said no. I was heavily drugged at this point, so Paul filled in the details for me after I became more lucid. The surgery lasted two hours. They found the rupture, in my cecum (part of the large intestine). Material had compacted tightly against the bowel wall and had been there long enough that a section of tissue didn’t get enough blood and had died. There was no way to tell WHEN the rupture occurred, but it was very large when they found it, large enough that bowel material was leaking into in my abdomen—including recognizable vegetables! I had to have a bowel resection, which means they cut out the dead tissue and sewed the two healthy ends back together. While they were there, they also removed my appendix, so I never have worry about THAT rupturing. Haha! Before my bowel resection surgery, my stomach had become so distended that my original c-section incision burst, so it had to be re-stapled.
Paul also told me about my behavior on the drugs they gave to me. He said when they brought me into the room, there was one nurse I was fascinated by because he was black. I actually vaguely remember this, because I thought the nurse was an interesting looking person, but Paul said that I was AMAZED by him. Paul said I kept telling the nurse that he was beautiful, and asking where he came from. The nurse took it well, but didn’t stay in the room long. Paul also told me that I asked every person who came in the room if they would get me a glass of water. He said it was sweet, and that I was disappointed every time I was told no. He wanted to get me some water. He also told me about my reaction to a nurse’s instructions about my “pain button”. My IV gave me a constant supply of fentanyl (pain reliever) for those first few days, but I also had a button I could press if I needed an extra dose. When the nurse was showing me the button she said, “Okay Amy, this is a magic button. If you hurt, push it. Do you understand?” Paul reported that I looked right at the nurse with a doe-eyed smile and said, “Snow?” The nurse asked again if I understood her instructions. My reply to her was, “White, fluffy snow?” At that point, they gave Paul the rest of the instructions.
We ended up staying at the hospital recovering from my second surgery until Thurs the 27th. They wanted to be sure that I was recovering well and that I had a few bowel movements BEFORE I was allowed to leave the hospital. I still had air trapped in my abdomen like before (because, again, that happens with all abdominal surgeries) but the second time, the methods for getting relief worked much better. Currently, there is still air built up in my body, but it is NOTHING compared to before, and manageable. Within a few more days it should be totally gone. I am very pleased by this.
I now have two large incisions on my abdomen. Of course, one is my original c-section which is about 7 inches long and runs horizontally between my hips. The second is the bowel resection incision, it is about 10 inches long and runs vertically from below my belly button up towards my ribs. They are healing well at this point, but are pretty gross to look at.
I was kept on a liquid-only diet until Wed the 26th. I have never experienced that before, but if I were ever to become some kind of spy-flick villain, my chosen method of torture would be a liquid-only diet. It is a special brand of miserable.
Remember that I mentioned in the ER they placed an IV in my right arm, at the elbow? The location quickly proved to be a huge nuisance. I had to keep that arm straight, otherwise the IV would become occluded and the machine would beep until a nurse came in to turn it off. Since I am right handed I use my right arm for most things, and it was hard to keep it straight. (Breast feeding and pumping were the most difficult things to do!) Sadly, none of the nursing staff were able to place a new one. It wasn’t for lack of trying though! Five different nurses tried placing a new one in various locations—including an Operating Room nurse, and a nurse who worked in the NICU setting IVs for tiny newborns!! The general theory was that my body was in a sort of “defence mode” and that when they attempted to place the new IV line my veins would constrict and “blow” the IV.
The hospital allowed me to stay on the Labor and Delivery floor, with Paul and Jane, instead of sending me to the Post-Operation floor where I would have ordinarily gone after surgery if I hadn’t just given birth. I am so glad we were able to all stay together! Jane had been discharged on Saturday (the 22nd) and was no longer a patient, so we were not permitted to send her to the nursery at any point, but the nurses were happy to answer questions we had. Paul had a very unique fathering experience as a result of our extended hospital stay. Since I was stuck in bed and unable to do much until I got some strength back, he provided most of Jane’s care almost completely by himself. I pumped as much milk for her as I could and held her when I could, but Paul was the one who gave her the bottles, changed her diapers, soothed her to sleep, woke up every two and half hours all through the night to tend to her, bathed her, and made sure she had everything she needed. Jane (and any other children Paul and I may have in the future) is blessed with one of the best fathers on the Earth. I am so proud and honored to be Paul’s wife.
Staying on the Labor and Delivery floor as a Post-Op Patient was interesting. The nurses were not used to caring for someone with my case, and there was occasional confusion as to why I was there. But the medical care I received was wonderful. The nursing staff was friendly, encouraging, and thoughtful. I was lucky to have such nice nurses. I became friends with a few of them during my stay. And they enjoyed getting to see Jane—usually they only see babies for 2-4 days after they’re born. They liked to hold her, when they could, because a 5 day old baby is way more alert than a 2 day old baby. They were also impressed with Paul’s care for Jane, and told him so often.
During my extended stay my primary doctor was the surgeon who performed my bowel resection. He would stop in once a day to check on me, and would also send a member of his surgical team in to meet with me once a day as well. The surgeons were very engaged by my case, they told me many times that what happened to me was so rare—they’d never heard of it happening before. It is strange to me!
Now that we are home, I am feeling much better than when we were discharged the first time. I still have a good deal of pain, and it will take lots of time before I am fully healed but I am on the right path. Currently I am taking a number of pain medications and an aggressive antibiotic so I don’t develop any infections. Care of my incisions is very important, and at least for the next few weeks I have to be very mindful of my diet. But I am home. YAY!
There are many lessons I have learned (and re-learned) from this whole thing, the first of which is, God knows me, loves me, and has power here on Earth. Prayers work. The second thing is to be patient and take joy in small victories. Third is to not to take simple things for granted, such as the ability to eat food and take a shower—be grateful for good health and a strong body.
I wanted to thank everyone who has helped us out—so many people have done things for us and Paul and I aren’t sure how we are going to express our appreciation. Our first week of parenthood did not go the way we expected, and the help and support we’ve been given has been such a comfort. We are SO happy to have Jane here with us. In spite of everything, it was worth it to get her here. Being parents is hard—but incredible. We still can hardly believe this perfect little girl is our daughter.
If anyone would like to see pictures, let me know. ^u^