The Unexpected

Before I get into too much detail about our current living situation or our life pre-baby, lets rewind back to Spring 2017.

We were months away from welcoming our first baby girl and had just purchased our first home. Both very exciting milestones close together.  Conor and I are both planners, but we had no idea at the time, how little control we would have over our lives in the months to come.

I was working for a custom home builder and I was working every weekend.  The date was June 4th , I was around 35 weeks pregnant, and I had been feeling a little off all day.  I stayed at work until 5 pm and tried to get though as much work as I could. By the time I arrived home my pounding headache had turned into a migraine. It was to the point that I went directly to bed hoping it would go away with a good night’s rest. My husband came to check on me almost every hour and kept insisting we go to the hospital. Having had migraines in the past I was sure it would go away overnight. Turns out he was right, it did not go away.  

In the morning we arrived at the hospital and they monitored me and the baby immediately.  They tried a few different things to get rid of the migraine and nothing seemed to take the edge off. The doctor finally had to resort to morphine which was not something I was a fan of, but I needed some relief. We found out just before the morphine that I also had protein in my urine and my liver enzymes were elevated. This meant I was going to be spending the night at the hospital. You can all appreciate how exciting this would be at almost 35 weeks pregnant.

After a rough night of sleep, being stabbed by needles every few hours and peeing into a jug, I was told I would be staying a few more nights.  I ended up being released on June 8, as all my levels seemed to be staying the same. I was now on strict bed rest with bathroom privileges only. We proceeded home, but this lasted less than 24 hours because the migraine returned…

Shortly after my arrival to the hospital this time I was told the protein had increased and the liver enzymes had skyrocketed. I was advised I would not be leaving the hospital again until after my little one arrived…at 35 weeks pregnant I was not very excited about being in the hospital for 5 weeks or more.

So, there we were in the hospital with an unknown end date. If you have been in the hospital over the weekend and you were not an urgent patient, you may understand how frustrating it can be. We felt like we were being given very minimal information and asked to see a doctor multiple times before we finally had a visit from a resident.  After her visit, Conor had a “chat” with the resident in the hallway.  I never asked what they talked about, but we seemed to get more regular visits from then on.

Monday finally rolled around, and my OB showed up bright and early at 7:30am. She just started talking to me as my husband wandered out of the bathroom in nothing but his boxers…this lightened the mood quite a bit as we all had a laugh. My amazing OB, Dr. Oliver, then recommended that we induce labor as my labs were not improving and she was concerned that I was exhibiting symptoms of HELP syndrome. I won’t bore you with the details, but essentially your symptoms get gradually worse until you suddenly plummet.  It can be fatal for both moms and babies. With that in mind, we decided to take her advice and scheduled an induction later that evening. We were both excited but also nervous as everything seemed to be happening so fast.  It was only a week ago that we were at a wedding thinking we had weeks before the “big day”.  She assured us that our baby was a good size and they did not have any major concerns about her arriving early.

My husband went to work to get ready to be off in the coming days. We had already been in the hospital for a week and he refused to leave my side.  That evening around 9pm we were sent to labor and delivery and I was promptly induced using a catheter.  I must say it was surprising how quickly my body reacted to the catheter. We spent most of the night moving around the room trying to find a comfortable position, which I did not find. Neither of us really slept as the contractions were basically on top of each other. A nurse later told us that in her experience, inducing labour when the body is not yet ready can bring some of the most painful and relentless contractions.  The decision was made at this point to give me pain meds, which provided a tremendous amount of relief.

Early the next morning, Conor went downstairs to get coffee and breakfast.  Dr. Oliver came around just after he left to see how things were going. Unfortunately, they had not progressed much at all.  She decided that it was time to “break my water” which was an interesting experience to say the least. It was over very quickly, before Conor even got back to the room in fact.  He came back in with a bagel and saw my stunned face.  “What the hell happened?” he said.  He never said it, but I know Conor was annoyed that they didn’t wait for him to come back.  The truth is that these amazing nurses and doctors are already overworked and don’t have time to wait around.  This was just another lesson that things don’t always go as planned and quite frankly, don’t always need to.

It was at this time we started oxytocin to get things moving along. It was a few hours of intense labor before I decided I would happily receive an epidural. Prior to experiencing labor, I was completely terrified of even the thought of an epidural, but as many of you women reading know, when you’re faced with the feeling of a drug free labour, the epidural starts sounding more like a cocktail and a massage. I was happy to oblige.

Since I was now on oxytocin and an epidural, we had a nurse keep us company all night.  Well, I guess just my husband. He stayed up and chatted with the nurse most of the night, too anxious and excited to rest. I slept on and off and morning rolled around slowly, and I still had not progressed much and was 3cm dilated.

We waited and waited and waited with little to no avail. There still had not been anymore progress at this point and the epidural was beginning to fail. I was given the option of continuing to see what my body would do naturally or have a C-section. This was truly not how I imagined my labor going, but I could choose to be disappointed and upset or play with the cards I had been dealt.  After weighing the options, we decided to go with a c-section.

Within two hours we were on our way to the operating room. I received another spinal prior to surgery, so I would not feel anything during the operation. For some reason this time the medication did not sit very well, and I was getting sick as they brought Conor into the room. Once he arrived, I started to feel a bit better. I experienced a range of emotions as I laid on the table. “This is strange that I am open on a table right now”….”There is a lot more jostling around than I had imagined”…. “When will she be here?”….“Is she going to be ok???” About 30 minutes into the procedure, we got the heads up from the doctor and out she came.

Emelia Rae Lynn Gfroerer

7lbs 2oz

June 14, 2017 @10:57pm

The moment was here we were now a family of three! Excitement, joy, tears and a little bit of fear rushed over us. The pediatrician took her and quickly gave us a glimpse of our beautiful baby girl as they rushed her to the far side of the room. Conor was allowed to go and see her and to take pictures, but things took a quick and slightly scary turn. Our baby girl had trouble breathing and had to be taken away for further attention.  She was quickly whisked away to the NICU. Conor stayed with me while the doctor finished my surgery and then immediately raced to the NICU to check on Emelia and get an update.  I was taken to recovery where I was informed Emelia was doing ok but had a bit of moisture on her lunges. This apparently was common in premature and c-section born babies. It certainly did not make it any less scary for us. Our minds were running wild filled with concern and millions of questions. We felt so overwhelmed and had not prepared mentally for this scenario.

The mood was lightened a little when the nurse advised me that I should try and hand express colostrum, so Emelia would be able to have some in the NICU. I immediately realized this would be difficult as I was still very numb and unable to move from the spinal I had received.  However, feeling somewhat helpless, I was enthusiastic to do whatever I could to help and feel like a new mom.  So…I told the nurse to milk me.  “That’s right lady!   Get in there and squeeze away!”.   I am sure I would have cringed if I thought about this possibility prior to going into the hospital, but at the time I had been exposed and poked so many times it didn’t matter.

Me & Emelia the night she was born.

I was able to see Emelia briefly before I went back to our room.  To say it was a whirlwind of emotions is an understatement.  I was proud of myself, proud of her and proud to say I was a mommy.   The monitors were nerve wracking and scary as our little one seemed to react poorly when we spoke or there were too many people around.  Things slowly got better as we were able to hold Emelia, change her diapers and eventually start working on breast feeding.

The first few days were such a blur.  I would walk or wheelchair (post C-section) to the NICU where I would work on breastfeeding.  We would feed her, change her, cuddle a bit, then go back to the room on the other side of the hospital.  By the time I’d gotten back to the room, pumped for a bit and had a quick bite, it was time to catch 20 minutes of sleep and head on back to the NICU to do it all over again.  I honestly think Conor went like three days without sleep.  He would help me out in the room, and then go see Emelia while I rested.

Conor & Emelia on June 15, 2017

As things improved with feeding and Emelia’s monitoring was no longer required, we looked forward to heading home. It was Sunday June 18 (fathers day), which meant I had been in the hospital for two weeks. I was ready to go home. The nurses were great and had told us we would likely go home tomorrow when the doctors came to do rounds.

We woke up Monday morning very excited to be going home soon. Conor had basically been with me non-stop for 2 weeks, so needed to go to the office for a few hours.  Unfortunately, his vacation and sick days were running low. I waited patiently all morning for the doctors to come around, by 11am they finally came. They reviewed Emelia’s chart and her feeds, to me they seemed to ignore my presence in the room and said “Things look good, we will review again tomorrow.” Ummm, excuse me?!? 

The lactation consultant came minutes after the doctors had left. I was sitting there holding my very tiny baby, crying hysterically with breast milk everywhere. If I were her, I probably would have regretted walking into our area at the time. I explained what had happened and she immediately went and spoke to the doctor.  She advocated to the doctor on my behalf and she came back with good news that we could leave today if the feeds went well the rest of the day.   She’ll never know how much her doing that meant to me.  We were back on track and fortunately feeding went well all afternoon. After having been in the NICU for 5 days we were finally able to go home! Conor often says that although the day Emelia was born was the most life changing, the best day of his life was the day we all got to go home.  Together as a family.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

Emelia heading home June 19, 2017

With all the unexpected things that happened in the last two weeks, one of the major things we missed was our baby shower. As we drove home, we realized we were grossly underprepared for this baby. No bottles, minimal diapers and blankets, and worse of all NO NOSEFRIDA!  I mean, everyone knows that since the dawn of man, the NoseFrida has been a fundamental staple of raising a child!  It’s what separates us from the animals and without it, your baby is basically a goner!  I sent my husband out for his first official “honey do” dad run.

We made it through the early evening and were getting ready for bed.  I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, emotions, fear and hormones. I started to cry out of nowhere, I looked at Conor and said, “I think we made a mistake, I don’t know if I can do this.” I suddenly felt terrified of making sure she ate, slept and kept breathing. I was scared to fall asleep, Breast-feeding was not going the way I had envisioned, and I was physically and mentally exhausted. My c-section body did not feel like it could keep up with what I needed it to do. Fortunately, I had Conor to reassure me that everything would be fine and every day would get better. He later told me that he felt the exact same way but it was that calm that helped me in those early days.  

He was right, each day was a bit easier than the last. Sure, the days were still filled with breast milk, walking around the house naked, eating a bag of chips for lunch and a bunch of other super fun “experiences” (I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks). Everyone was happy and healthy, and each day brought on new challenges, but we made it through one day at a time.  

Everyone experiences different things when bringing a little human into the world. In my experience, most people go into it expecting things to go to plan, but more often than not, that’s just not the reality. Whatever your story is, it brought life into the world and that is an incredible and beautiful thing. I personally would still love to bring a child into the world naturally, but I now know that it’s not about how they come in, it’s that they’re here.

If I have one final thought for both men and women reading, it’s to embrace the unexpected and roll with the punches.  Not just in pregnancy and birth, but in parenting and life. It’s easier said than done but some things are just outside your control.

Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated, please comment, like and share.

Until next time!