Saturday, July 30, 2016

Day 18 & My Recovery

Today is day 18 for Carson in the NICU. I cannot believe he's still there. He's so healthy and he eats very well. He just doesn't have the stamina to take a bottle every three hours, time after time. He takes two bottles in a row and then won't wake up for the next one. Eating takes a lot of energy out of preemie.  The doctor even made the comment sarcastically that he would have him home by Christmas. One of my favorite nurses, Monica, said that she's so glad she didn't make any predictions to us early on b/c she never would have imagined that he'd still be there.

When I called to check on him last night, the nurse was so encouraging. She said that you can lay them down after a poor feeding and then the next feeding they can take off and never look back. He's had that nurse for two nights in a row and she's so nice and talkative. A lot of the night time nurses aren't as chatty at the daytime nurses b/c we don't see them. Right now, one or both of us visit Carson once during the day for 1-2 hours and then we call around 10pm to check on him before we go to sleep. Sometimes we call in the morning if we aren't going to visit until later in the day. When I visited today, he was awake and alert. He even whimpered a little as if to queue that he was hungry. When I walked in and said his name, he turned his head all the way from the left to the right to follow my voice. What a great feeling!

He must have known that Uncle Dave, Aunt Emily, and Sarah were there to visit.

It was Uncle Dave's first time to meet Carson. Sarah was able to stay and help me give him a bath since it was bath day. He loves his swaddle baths. This is his relaxed face.

I've said a million times that I think we are very close to going home, but today I left really encouraged. He ate his bottle in 15 minutes and has already finished two others today.

He's also up to 4lbs 13oz, which is almost a pound over his birth weight. I can't wait to get this sweet kid home and snuggle with him.

One blessing in disguise with this extended NICU stay is that it's given me time to recover. For all the ways that pregnancy was better this time, the recovery has been awful. I think my recovery with Miles was pretty bad too b/c that's when all my Lyme symptoms showed up, but honestly I don't remember this. It's been extremely difficult both physically and emotionally. Miles took this picture of me the other day and while it's not flattering, it paints a pretty accurate description of how I feel.

I think the emotional toll of Carson still being in the NICU and the traumatic delivery affects me more than I probably realize. Having to drive to the hospital every day and then the sadness of leaving at the end of our short visits isn't fun. And, I know many people have traumatic birth stories, but it's just not something I will soon forget, especially knowing how much danger Carson was in. At my last doctor's visit, I cried to my doctor and told him that I felt a little crazy right now, which lead him to ask if I felt like hurting myself (what a good doctor for asking). I assured him that I was extremely happy but the NICU and life in general just felt like too much right now. He suggested a shot of progesterone and a mild antidepressant to help get me through. I think one shot of progesterone helped me stop crying almost immediately. I don't think I've even teared up once since then. However, that was the most painful shot I have ever had in I was supposed to get another one, and I really want one, but there is no way. It didn't hurt as I was getting it, but my hip, back, and leg have been sore since Monday. Today is the first day that it has let up at all and I got it on Monday. I haven't even been able to lay on my right side.

I think the antidepressant helped too, but I can't tolerate it. I was cutting the small dose into fourths and it still made me jittery, spacey, and completely took my appetite for the entire next day. I tried to continue taking it hoping I would get used to it, but I finally stopped last night. I've felt a lot better today. I plan to talk to my doctor about maybe trying something else. I talked to a friend that is a pharmacist and got some ideas. I still think something to help me deal with the stress would be good.

Physically, my blood pressure and the return of my Lyme symptoms are making me feel really yucky. I started a new blood pressure medicine this week and it has helped get me out of the scary zone, but it could stand to come down more. I also started taking some medicine to help calm my Lyme symptoms down. At first I was a little disappointed with the minimal plan of action recommended by my Lyme doctor, but it has definitely helped with the severity of my symptoms. I'm hoping once Carson comes home, and I get a little farther away from the c-section, my symptoms will go away completely.

Some might think this is a lot of info to share on a blog, but I want to be able to look back on these days and see how far we've come. Plus, I'm kind of an open book. I don't think there's any shame in admitting when life is getting the best of you. Despite this hard recovery, it is honestly such a happy time for us. Having Carson and seeing him everyday is the best. I love having two boys. I can't wait to have him home. I think he and I are both going to be ready at just the right time. Thank you, Lord for your perfect timing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Great Day

My recovery has been very challenging but today I felt really good, so I visited with Carson for almost two hours. I plan to write about my recovery another day, but today...only happy stuff.

They were very busy in Carson's area today, so I did as much by myself as possible. It's good for the nurses to see us taking care of him on our own so there is no hold up when it's time to leave. They have to make sure we can take care of preemie before they release him to us. I love the opportunity to take care of him and really get to be mom for a little while. So much of that is taken away when they are in the NICU. Today I undressed him, took off his leads, changed his diaper, feed him, gave him a bath, held him for an hour, dressed him, and 'put him away' as they say there, which means tucked him in his little crib and situated him. It was such a good day with him.

The nurses say that he will 'wake up' closer to his due date. This picture is from a couple of days ago. It shows how much more alert he is these days. Around feeding time, he is starting to wake up and open his eyes which is definite progress.

He's been wearing a special hat to help keep his head round. Preemies spend a lot of time sleeping which can flatten their heads. This has a roll around the bottom that keeps the back of head lifted a little. He also has a tendency to look to the right, which can tighten the muscles in his neck. This helps with all that b/c he generally looks straight unless he wiggles his way over to the side. He usually wears it between feedings and then off between the next feedings.  

I will be so happy when I can hold him without wires.  These are his leads, plus one more on his foot. He also has a security ankle bracelet. The security bracelet actually shuts down the elevators if someone were trying to take him.

Today is day 15 in the NICU. I was really hoping he would come home this week. He was put on all bottles earlier in the week to see how he would do, but it wore him out. They put him on queue based next which means he only gets a bottle when he acts like he's ready to eat. If he doesn't queue, then they would just tube feed him. Right now he's getting a bottle every other feeding. Next step is two bottles to one tube, and then all bottles. As soon as he tolerates all bottles for 24 hours, the process of sending him home could go quickly. I'm ready for him to be home, but obviously we want to be sure he's ready. If he stumbles at home and has to go back to the hospital, he will be admitted to the pediatric floor instead of the NICU. We definitely do not want that. Our prayer is that he will come home soon and be 100% ready when he does.

While I was visiting Carson, Miles hung out with Darrin at volleyball camp. He loves being in the gym. The girls include him in so much. How cute is this???

I came home from the hospital and decided to lay down for a while before Darrin and Miles got home. I woke up two hours later at 7pm. They got home shortly after I woke up. Miles recently did some yard work to earn a video game. 

I needed these plants dug up, the weeds pulled, and the ground smoothed over. When he heard that I was willing to buy him a video game, he ran to get his wheel barrow and shovel. I was going to end up buying the video game any way, so at least I got a chore done that I couldn't do.

His video game arrived today, five days late. He's been checking the mail every day. His day was made when Darrin said he'd play with him for an hour. "Greatest dad in the whole world. There could never be a better dad than you."

Their hour of video game time is almost over. Time to put Miles to bed and spend some time with Darrin. Darrin and I have gotten into a routine of watching TV together at night in the living room. He watches Netflix on his iPad with wireless headphones and I watch the TV. My love language is quality time. It's amazing how just being in the same room does me so much good. It's been a great day. My heart is happy.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Carson's First Selfie

Well today was the first day that I haven't seen Carson since he was born. I've been having some blood pressure issues and have actually been admitted to the hospital and sent home twice this week. The first time my blood pressure was 188/90 which is pretty high for me. I happened to be at my one week follow up appointment with the doctor that delivered Carson. He said that postpartum blood pressure is nothing to play around with and sent me to the hospital immediately. They gave me a blood pressure pill, a pain shot, monitored my blood pressure for a couple of hours and sent me home. The second time, I was visiting Carson and a nurse who knew I had been admitted the previous day asked me how I was feeling. I told her I didn't feel like myself and just felt a little 'out of body'.  She took over and the next thing I knew I had been admitted. I wasn't opposed to being admitted again b/c Dr. Gray had put the fear in me the day before about strokes and seizures.  My blood pressure was okay the second time and they let me go home. That was the first day I had driven and walked from the parking lot to the NICU by myself.  I think it was just a little too much.

Unfortunately my blood pressure is not the only issue I'm having. I'm becoming fairly convinced that I am having a Lyme relapse, which was the biggest concern about getting pregnant again. I'm having terrible headaches, neck stiffness, and joint pain, which are all the Lyme symptoms that I experienced right after Miles was born. I'm trying not to freak out. It's so concerning though. At least this time I know what we are dealing with and I've already been taking medicine for years. I'm going to talk to my doctor next week and see what we can do. Praying this is a very short relapse and that it can be dealt with quickly. 

During my second hospital stay, several of the nurses said that it would probably be best to stay home and rest as much as possible. I took their advice and didn't visit Carson today. I don't want him to go a day without a visit from one of us, so Darrin went today. He and Carson took their first selfie. If you know my husband, you know this is the first of many.

I know Carson is in good hands. I know this NICU is only temporary. I know he doesn't miss us. I know things could be far worse. And still my heart hurts to think of him up there without us. Every day gets harder and harder to be away from him. Everyone keeps saying that it will click soon and he will 'take off'. I can't wait for that day. Praying next week is a turning point for him. Sorry for the depressing post, but I really want to remember these feelings so I can look back one day on how far we've come.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Less Words Wednesday

My friend, Gabbi, drove me to the hospital yesterday afternoon to spend some time with Carson. When you hold skin to skin they like for the minimum to be 1 hour. It can be tricky to schedule visits when Darrin & I need to stay an hour, but Miles can only stay 5-10 minutes. I'm about to be off of the pain meds, which means I can drive again. That will make things easier.

I gave Carson a bottle and held him for an hour an a half before Darrin brought Miles for a visit.  Miles was so thrilled to see him. He's heard us talk about firm touches, which is what preemies like, so he jumped right in and did everything exactly as he should.  Preemies don't like to be rubbed or patted b/c it's too much stimulation. They also don't like noise, light, or a lot of movement. They are used to being very contained in the womb and for their age, that's where they are still supposed to be. 

The nurse asked if Miles wanted to hold him. We had a little debacle the second day b/c a nurse offered to let him hold Carson, which they aren't supposed to do. Just as he was about to, someone walked by and stopped it. Miles was devastated. 

So when this nurse offered, he shook his head no. I think he felt like he was the one that got in trouble the first time. Carson is in an area now called the cave. It's called that b/c it doesn't have any windows and it's in a more secluded part of the NICU. I told Miles that we would just do it for a second and it would be okay.  Less people were likely to see.  He's been waiting for this moment.  He loved seeing Carson's eyes.

The look on his face was priceless.

He already loves him so deeply.

I took a million pictures b/c it was a moment the three of us will remember forever. My absolute favorite...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fun, Not Fun

This is kind of like "I have good news & bad news, which do you want first" kind of post. So, the 'not fun' first...what's not fun is being on maternity leave and not having your baby home with you. That reality set in this morning when Darrin and Miles left for work and day camp and I was alone at home. It was really sad. So much so that I immediately started contemplating ways to extend my maternity leave. I'm so afraid that he will be in the NICU during most of my leave and then as soon as he gets out I'll have to go back to work. God immediately reminded me to slow down and take things one day at a time. Easier said than done. 

Also 'not fun' is that I haven't been feeling great. Over the weekend, I had a few random issues. I'll spare you the details, but one problem has been a little increase in my blood pressure. I had high blood pressure towards the end of my pregnancy with Miles and I've been on a low dose of blood pressure medicine ever since. Anytime I try to get off, it goes right back up. Thankfully it was very controlled all during this pregnancy.  I called the doctor today and they increased my medicine a little bit. Hopefully it will kick in soon.

Now that we got all the 'not fun' stuff out of the way, let's move on to the good stuff.  'Fun' is Miles getting to hang out with all his old friends in Martin. My friend, Christa, asked if she could come get him on Sunday afternoon. She arranged for all my friends and their kids to get together for an afternoon of swimming. After swimming, she let Miles pick where he wanted to eat dinner and get ice cream. It was incredibly nice of her to treat big brother to a day that was all about him. He came home happy and completely worn out.

'Fun' is also any time we get to visit Carson. I'm still rocking a wheelchair b/c it's a long walk to the NICU.

My motto for Carson is slow & steady wins the race. He's being very consistent, but not progressing too fast on the feedings.  He's been at the same level for a while. They are increasing the amounts, but he's still only attempting two bottles every day. They want him to cue, meaning act like he wants a bottle, but he's just not there yet. The closer we get to his due date, the more likely he will cue more. 

He's doing a good job maintaining his body temperature. They have been steadily reducing the temperature in his isolette and are talking about moving him to a regular crib tomorrow. I would actually rather he stay in the isolette a little longer, until he's made more progress with feeding, but I trust them to do what's best for him.

He loves to be held. 

Brothers :)

Miles got to help with bath time. He's only allowed to stay back there for 10 minutes. They bring a kitchen timer with him and when it goes off, he has to leave. We called the nurse on Sunday morning and told her that we would be there for bath time. She was nice enough to have everything already ready to go.

Miles was able to help the whole time. She included him by letting him squeeze the soap and get the warm towel at the end. These nurses are amazing. They go out of their way to accommodate the families.

'Fun' is when Aunt Crystal comes to visit. She was out of town when Carson was born, so she came to visit over the weekend to help us around the house and see Carson. We are both very close to her so it meant a lot to us for her to meet Carson. She's loves all of her nieces and nephews so much and it's very apparent.

Last, 'fun' is my escape from reality...the Bachelorette. Good night, so I can partake!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Carson is Here!

Surprise!  Carson is here.  I don't even know where to start, but I'm going to do my best to document how everything went down.  This is going to be a long one.

Tuesday morning, I went to work as usual and then went to my 34 week doctor's appointment at 9am.  I told Darrin that I would go by myself b/c it should be a quick appointment.  We didn't have an ultrasound or anything planned. I quickly met with my doctor and told him everything was good.  My exact words were that I was "big and moody" but that everything else was okay. He laughed and said at least I was normal for 34 weeks.  We were almost finished and he asked if the baby was still moving a lot. As I replay the visit in my head, this is the only question that I think could have lead us down the road we went.  I said that he had slowed down a little and actually scared me over the weekend by not moving much, but that I guess he's just running out of room.  I think he thought for a minute about letting that be, but then said we should do a non stress test which measures the babies heart rate and movement.  He said it was a routine test around 34 weeks.  I went and did the non stress test and even took pictures b/c I was going to blog about it later.

I watched the monitor for 20 minutes during the test.  His heart rate was around 150 the whole time. I had to click a button every time he moved and he seemed to move well too. He moved away from the monitor a couple times, so the nurse sent me to ultrasound to do the same test there. It's easier to see on ultrasound when the baby isn't cooperating. During the ultrasound, she noticed that my fluid was very low.  Normal is 5-25 and mine was 4. She said that she needed to go talk to my doctor. She happens to be a friend from college so I asked her if she was concerned. She said, "Baby is okay, but I don't like it." I could tell she was serious.  I think at this point, I sent Darrin the first text to let him know that there was a little concern, but that everything was still okay.  I went back to the room and waited for the doctor. He came in and asked if I thought I had been leaking fluid. I told him that I had wondered but that it was so slight, I never could tell. He did a test to see if I was and told me to go on to the hospital for monitoring and that he would send the results over.  At this point, he said that I was just going to be monitored but that if I had ruptured that I would be in the hospital until the baby delivered. He indicated that the most extreme scenario would be that I would have a c-section that day. I text Darrin at this point and told him he needed to come get me now and we would drive to the hospital together. Things seemed urgent but still not an emergency situation. In my mind, I really felt like we would go to the hospital for monitoring and that would be all.  It's funny and scary that we had no idea what was about to go down. I'm blue, Darrin is yellow.

I was still fairly calm, but I was crying when Darrin picked me up.  We checked into the hospital around 10 minutes later. They took us to a room, got me hooked up to all the monitors, and a nurse walked in and started asking questions.  Her first question was "Tell me why you think the doctor sent you over."  I told her that my fluid was low and he sent me for monitoring, and that he was supposed to sent over the results from the test to see about my amniotic fluid.  There seemed to be a lot of confusion about why I was there and they even mentioned doing a c-section that day a couple times. I just kept saying that I was only there for monitoring. 

Then, things got really crazy. The nurse was messing with the heart monitor and couldn't seem to find Carson's heart rate. I still just thought they were missing him b/c he moves a lot. The room filled up with doctors and nurses. I was getting an IV, blood work, and fluids all while they were trying to find his heart rate. They found it and it was back up to a suitable level so some of the excitement died down a little bit. A few minutes later, his heart rate dropped and the room filled with people again.  It was then that we were clued in that we were heading to surgery and that they needed to get Carson out.  They got me ready for surgery and Darrin made a few calls.  He called my mom to tell her to come to Jackson. He called my friend, Stephanie, to tell her to get Miles from day camp.  And, he called his parents to let them know what was going on even though they were on vacation in South Carolina.  That's all we had time for.

I held it together until we arrived in the operating room and then I lost it.  I was in there by myself with tons of doctors and nurses that were obviously dealing with an emergency situation.  Stress was very high. At that point I started loud, ugly, raise up off the table kind of cry.  The nicest OB hospitalist came over to console me.  I swear he was an angel in the room. They debated whether or not to knock me out or give me a spinal. Carson's heart rate was steady at that point so they decided on a spinal.  They did the spinal and laid me back down.  The spinal did help calm me a little but then I was terrified that they were about to cut into me.  They kept poking me with this thing asking me if I could still feel, which I could. So, they tipped the table back to try to make the spinal work faster. Tried poking me again and I could still feel it. They tipped the table back again and threatened to knock me out, but it finally worked enough to get started.  As soon as I said I couldn't feel past a certain point, they immediately started cutting.

Let me pause for a moment and say that my labor experience with Miles was not a pleasant one. During my pregnancy with Carson I have been counting on a scheduled c-section which everyone assured me would be so much easier than it was with Miles.  It probably would have been, but when it comes to an emergency c-section, I would rank this even harder than my delivery with Miles. It was by far the hardest, scariest thing I have ever done.  And not just from the standpoint of being worried sick over Carson. The surgery itself was terrifying.  I guess b/c time was such a factor, they were very rough. Everything felt chaotic. I didn't feel the pain from the cutting, but the tugging and pulling really hurt, and I don't just mean it was uncomfortable.  It hurt.  They were practically standing on top of me pushing him out.  I kept asking the nurse at my head if they were almost finished. She was so nice and would tell me exactly where we were in the process. Darrin tried to talk to me once and I told him I couldn't. I was just focused on getting through it.

Finally things seemed to relax a little and I heard the doctor ask for the time, which was 12:35pm. The doctor reassuringly said, "He's not crying but he's trying. He's small but he looks good." We didn't have to wait long and Carson started crying.  He sounded strong.  Darrin was able to go over and take a bunch of pictures.

He weighed 3lbs 14oz.  I couldn't believe his weight when I heard it.  They didn't measure him then, but later they said he was 16" long.  

They said that he was doing really well but that they were going to take him to the NICU to check him out.  I asked if I could see him first. I honestly don't remember getting a good look at him, but I was just happy to lay my eyes on him. This picture is so deceiving b/c I was still terrified, shocked, and in pain as they were sewing me up. 

The rest of the day is honestly a blur for me.  I went to recovery for a couple hours. A really sweet nurse that had been with us since we checked in came over to us, and with the most sincere face, asked if we realized how blessed we were for things to have gone the way they did. I think she wanted to be more direct with her words, but we understood what she was saying. We hadn't had time to process everything at that point, but I definitely knew already that we had experienced God's favor. 

The lady that I just talked about is in the picture below. After recovery, they wheeled me to the NICU to see Carson.  I couldn't believe how small he was. Pictures don't accurately portray how little 3lb 14 oz really is.

They were so sweet to give us some time with him.  

And to let us take pictures without once rushing us.


I don't even remember how Miles ended up there, but I'm guessing Stephanie text Darrin and met him at the NICU entrance.  Miles had to go through a little "training" before he could go back and see Carson.  They showed him pictures of preemies and prepared him for what he would see.  I'm so proud of Miles and how well behaved and mature he is in situations like this.

This picture brings tears to my eyes. Miles has wanted a baby brother for so long. I love the look on his face here.  We didn't do a very good job of explaining to Miles what happened and why Carson had to be born so quickly, but we really hadn't grasped everything yet either.  For all he knew, we dropped him off at day camp and went to have a baby without him, and then had someone pick him up and bring him to the hospital. I will always have a little regret about how we did not prepare him and talk to him about it.  We have talked to him a lot since then and hopefully he understands now why things happened like they did.

My mom, sister-in-law, and niece arrived shortly after we got to a room.  They all got to see Carson.  It's hard b/c no one is able to hold him right now.  Darrin & I are only able to hold him twice a day. Holding him and passing him around burns too much energy.  Right now, he needs all of his energy to eat.

Correction (I told you guys the day was a blur): I talked with Darrin after posting this and he said we ran into my mom as they were wheeling me from the recovery room to the NICU.  I remember that now b/c it was so good to see her. I was glad she had gotten there and it was good to feel her sympathy for me for what I had just gone through. That's where we got Miles too.  He was in the waiting room with my mom, Stephanie, Emily and Sarah.  Darrin and I went back and spent a little time with Carson and then he went and got Miles to meet him. 

The next day, Darrin's parents drove straight to the hospital from vacation to see Carson.

Darrin & I spent two nights in the hospital. It's a very strange thing to be in the hospital, but not with your baby. We were able visit him some. We got to feed him.

Give him a bath.

And, hold him skin to skin.  I think this picture best shows how little he is.

You can hold him skin to skin once per shift, which is once every 12 hours. Not being able to be with Carson and not holding him was making it difficult for me to feel bonded with him.  Plus, I was in pain from the c-section and didn't sleep at all the first night in the hospital.  Holding Carson next to me for the first time was all it took for me to bond with him.  It was one of the most special things I've ever experienced. I welled up with tears as soon as they put him on me. The nurses say it is the best therapy for mom, dad, and baby. I believe it. I feel completely relaxed when I hold him like this and you can tell he does too.

This is a pretty accurate picture of how we felt the day after Carson was born.  I was half asleep while holding him and Darrin was passed out too.  Emotionally drained is an understatement.  

So that's how Carson got here at 34 weeks.  Darrin picked me up from the doctor's office at 11am and Carson was born at 12:35pm. I have known two people that have lost babies late in pregnancy recently and it was definitely in the back of my mind. I am so thankful that God allowed Carson to be born safely on Tuesday. I'm forever thankful to my doctor and what I saw was a gut feeling. The doctor that delivered Carson, Dr. Gray, called me that night in the hospital to check on me. He said that he wanted to let me know that he believes that my fibroid tumor is ultimately what caused Carson's distress. The tumor didn't allow the placenta to do it's job.  My doctor, Dr. Soll, said all along that the fibroid could end up causing some problems in the end, like preterm labor or a small birth weight. As far as I'm concerned Dr. Soll is a genius and handled my pregnancy flawlessly. He was on top of everything from beginning to end.

Carson is doing well. His only obstacle is eating. Right now he takes two 1 ounce bottles a day and the rest of his feedings are through a tube. He has to be able to take his bottle in 30 minutes or less. Otherwise, he's burning more calories than he's consuming.  He knows how to take a bottle, but he doesn't have enough energy to take them all efficiently.  He will be at the hospital until he can take all his feedings by a bottle and keep them down. It's very strange to be home without him, but I definitely want him to be completely ready before he comes home. His size is hard to get used to.  Even changing his diaper and giving him a bath takes some getting used to.  He seems so fragile, even though they say he's very strong.  The NICU does a good job of teaching us how to take care of him.  It's like having a first child all over again. We are all completely in love with him and can't wait to have him home with us. Thank you God for our precious baby.