My little J is turning two in a few days, and I realized perhaps that’s why I’ve been a bit more emotional and thin-skinned lately. I’ve been thinking back to two years ago, when I was in the hospital for pre-e. I feel a strange longing for those days spent being watched carefully, sleeping in the hospital bed, ordering meals to my room. Of course it was hard in many ways, but the hard bits fade. The edges blur slightly and you look back and think, it wasn’t so bad.
I even do that with J’s days in the hospital. Sometimes I miss them. Should I feel guilty for that? I don’t miss her being sick or struggling or the sheer agony of the days before and after her surgery, but I kind of miss living there sometimes, which blows my mind. We were practically kicking the door down to get out of there. Yet every time we were admitted for short inpatient stays after the big one, it felt like coming home.
Now, on the almost eve of her second birthday, I am itching to go back and remember the day. I took her birth story post down long ago because of the pictures coming up in image search engines and it all made us nervous. Still, the story is a good one. I get requests for it. So I’m bringing the text of the story back, in case you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me. If not, skip to the bottom for an update on how she’s doing.
Turtle’s Birth Story
This is the most surreal blog post I’ve ever written. Turtle is here, you guys. Let me start at the beginning.
On Monday they ordered more labs to check in on the state of my pre-eclampsia, including bloodwork and another 24-hr urine collection. On Tuesday, I knew my OB would be on call and stopping by sometime in the morning. DH had been leaving the hospital room around 6:45 am to get to work but I asked him to stay this day to hear what she had to say. By 9 am he was getting antsy to get to work and finally decided to leave, even though we had asked our nurse to page Dr. Caring and let her know we were waiting to meet with her.
As he’s heading out the door, our nurse says, Dr. C on the floor and consulting with Dr. Kind’s practice. She would be by soon. So he came back and waited. And I’m so glad he did because she came in and basically said, how do you feel about delivering today? I was 36w3d at that point and my pre-eclampsia seemed to be getting a little bit worse. My blood pressure readings were creeping up and one of the liver indicators in my bloodwork had made a jump. She didn’t want to wait and then have to have an emergency c-section. With Turtle’s condition, we needed to be able to plan ahead a little bit and coordinate with Children’s. So Tuesday, May 21st it would be!
We had about six hours to get ready, which included flying DH’s mom up from the DC area and making all sorts of arrangements. I was a ball of anxiety in these hours, really anxious about everything to do with the surgery. I was trying to live in the moment as much as possible but I’m afraid most of this time is a blur. I did take notice of every one of Turtle’s movements and told myself this was one of the last times I’d ever feel him move inside of me.
Eventually they got me up to labor and delivery and started prepping me for surgery (including the super fun hunt for a place to put an IV in my tiny veins). We planned for DH to be with me during the birth, then he’d go with Turtle to the NICU for stabilization, and eventually over to Children’s. At that point, my mom would come into the OR to be with me for the rest of the surgery. This was an accommodation on the hospital’s part but oh my god, no one knew how important that ended up being.
After they got my spinal in (horrible feeling, I cried), they laid me down and I tried not to think about my naked lower half splayed open for all to see while they catheterized, sterilized, and did god-knows-what-else to me. I was so glad it was my own OB doing the surgery, someone I trusted implicitly and knew well. I kept getting nauseous and the anesthesiologist kept having to fix that. I tried to just focus on a spot on the ceiling and couldn’t help but think how much courage this was requiring and how much of an equal sacrifice a c-section is.
Finally, it was time and they allowed DH to come in and sit by my head behind the curtain. I felt lots of tugging and pulling all over but nothing hurt. I think I remember hearing that they could see the baby. Then more tugging and pulling. Then something about how the baby came out peeing. Then these words that changed my life, “Is it a girl or a boy?”
DH and I met eyes immediately in confusion and, frankly, terror. What did they mean, is it a girl or a boy? Of course it was a boy! We had a MaterniT21 test! We saw boy bits on an ultrasound! Was there some sort of scary ambiguous gender thing going on? It seemed to take forever. The anesthesiologist kept saying, congratulations, we’re just confirming if it’s a boy or a girl. Meanwhile, DH and I are frantic, trying to wrap our heads around the fact that it could possibly be a girl.
We hear some faint cries from the other side of the room and after an eternity, a nurse in yellow scrubs comes over to say, it’s definitely a girl. WHAT! Then she asked DH if he wanted to see her and he was like, um yes! Off he went and off my mind went spinning. At some point, a NICU resident came over to tell me something about meconium, getting a tube in her stomach… I honestly couldn’t even listen, all I could think was, TURTLE IS A GIRL!
They wheeled her over for me to see but she was far away in an isolette and I could barely view her. Then she was gone, DH was gone, and they went to fetch my mom. When she came in, she was all smiles and the nurse told me she hadn’t told her anything yet. I’m sure she was babbling on about something but I just met her eyes and said, “Mom. It’s a GIRL.”
Everyone in the OR, especially my OB, is shocked. We’re all trying to figure out how this could happen. My OB is getting her office on the phone to call Dr. Kind’s office, get ultrasound records and the MaterniT21 test results. She’s resolved to get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, my mind is still spinning.
Here’s what I know in recovery: she’s a girl. She’s on her way to Children’s. She looks good. She weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz., same as me, but I was late and she was way early. She scored 8 and 9 on her Apgar. She was born at 3:24 pm on May 21st, 2013. She’s a she.
Then I’m throwing up and they’re starting my 24-hour magnesium sulfate treatment to prevent seizures and the nurse is being amazing and putting ice cold washcloths on my face and I can’t really think about anything. I hear she’s in surgery around 5 and out around 7. I hear she did well. DH calls me and says the NICU nurse wants to talk with me. She tells me Turtle did so well in surgery and the surgeon is really pleased with her results. Her belly was big enough to fit all of the bowel back in and close up nicely. She has a lot of healthy bowel. BUT. There are two blockages (atresias) that will need to be fixed with a subsequent surgery in 6-8 weeks. It’s my worst nightmare and a dream come true all at the same time.
The past few days have been intense. I’ve been so occupied by my own recovery that I haven’t been able to really miss her or fret about her. The magnesium treatment is not at all fun and essentially knocks you out for 24 hours. Still, I was determined to see her on Wednesday, so as soon as my 24 hours were up, my nurse and parents started trying to get my to a place where I could be wheeled across the street to Children’s to see her. The pain and discomfort I felt as soon as I stood up required every ounce of determination I had to make it to the bathroom. I had to, otherwise I could not have gone. They packed me in the chair, catheter and all, popped some Per.cosset and even though I felt like hell and was really only about halfway with it, I got there. I saw her. I touched her that day for the first time. All I could do was reach into her isolette and stroke her head and cheeks but I did it.
The next day, yesterday, was a little bit better and with DH’s loving help I was able to shower and see her again, and finally hold her and fall in love. By this time, everyone was on our case about the name. It was hard to say goodbye to the perfect boy name we had for a boy Turtle (we’re still not revealing it and might save it for the unknown future). It felt like saying goodbye to the son we had been bonding with and envisioning since December.
We were determined to name her ASAP though. It just felt like she NEEDED a name, we couldn’t keep calling her “baby girl.” So yesterday we pow-wowed over lunch while the grandmas watched over her at Children’s and narrowed it down to three names (first and middle, all different). I felt strongly about one, DH loved another, so we compromised and went with the third, which we both loved.
Blog world, I’m so proud to introduce you to my darling daughter. Our wild, unpredictable little girl.
I’ll likely still call her Turtle on here for now but wanted to share her name because I’m oh so proud of her.
In terms of the gastroschisis, all of her bowel was able to be placed back in her belly on her birth day. She came through the surgery like a champ and the surgeons, like I said, were so pleased with the result. However, we’re still looking at another 6 weeks or more until they can get in there to repair the blocked portions of bowel, and then possibly another 6 weeks or more after that until she can leave the hospital. It’s a long haul but I feel surprisingly okay with all of it. And just so, so lucky to have our precious little girl here with us after EVERYTHING. Infertility, IVF, vanishing twin, early bleeding, gastroschisis, breech position, pre-eclampsia, no one ever said it would be easy and it wasn’t but she is a miracle and she is here.
ps. She is 100% a girl. A strong, feisty, pulling her tubes out girl. They confirmed her uterus and ovaries in surgery just to make sure. The MaterniT21 mix up is being blamed on the vanishing twin. The ultrasound showing us “boy parts” was early, around 14 weeks, when a mix up can easily occur. After that, we couldn’t see anything due to the gastroschisis. And that, my friends, is how even the best of modern medicine and 30+ ultrasounds can miss the fact that you’re having a girl, not a boy.
And now, she is almost two years old. She is walking, running, climbing, sliding, balancing, kicking, dancing, even doing yoga with me. And she has more words than I can count and is starting to pay attention to pronunciation. (Big Bird is now just Big Bird, “dede” no longer.) She’s stringing little phrases together. Counting, “one thumb, TWO thumbs!” (She very much loves having two thumbs.) Like most little girls, she is equal parts sass and love. But she’s friendlier than most and generally loves life. Doing things. Being outside! It’s all the best thing ever.
On the medical side, we are still challenged by her bacterial overgrowth. But she did get her g-tube out a few weeks ago! That was a victory, for sure. But it won’t feel complete until she has surgery to close the hole, which doesn’t seem to want to close on its own. It’s more of a procedure than a full surgery, but it does require general anesthesia so a part of me is already nervous about it.
Still, as the months continue to roll by, and the person she is continues to emerge, all the pain and anxiety described above gets minimized. Which is good and natural, but some days, like today, you want to hang on. And remember. And fist bump your former self and your husband and your baby and everyone because, we are the lucky ones who survived and thrived. And I won’t ever forget that.