Today is a good day. Well, in the less than grand scheme of things, today was a good day. But in the big picture, grand scheme of things, today is one of those epic days that I will never forget. Ever.
Six years ago today I went to see my fantastic perinatologist (Dr. Gupta) in Panorama City, California. I was 34 weeks into a high-risk pregnancy and it was time for a little “look-see” amniocentesis. You see, 20 weeks earlier, I woke up with my foot in my hand. Scratching. Scratching like a crazy woman. Ok, if you know me now, that doesn’t sound so strange, but at that time, this wasn’t a regular occurrence.
I casually mentioned my woes as I chatted with my Babycenter comrades, assuming it was a normal pregnancy by-product. Someone responded with a “I don’t want to alarm you, but you need to call your doctor” message. Thanks darlin, I was alarmed. Alarmed-ish. I did a little research so I had half a clue as I made that call. It sounded suspiciously like Cholestasis of Pregnancy, minus one major point. Everything I read stated that this condition shows its ugly head during the last trimester. I had just squeaked into my second trimester. Barely there. And as I thought about it, the itching had been going on since the first. But I made the call.
As a member of Kaiser Permanente who (at the time) had a normal (not high-risk) pregnancy, I played OB roulette with each visit. It was no big thing. Each OB I had seen up to that point had been pleasant and worthy of revisits. This visit landed me with one that I’d see again a few times over the course of my membership (which spanned for years). I remember it clearly, she folded her arms and shook her head as she told me that she was fairly certain I was not looking at Cholestasis of Pregnancy. Her reasoning was just as I mentioned before. “I have never seen that condition earlier than the third trimester, especially not this early.”
But, she was a good doctor and did her due diligence, so you can imagine her surprise when the results were in.
It is a fairly (actually extremely) uncommon condition. At the time, I believe it was estimated to affect around 1 in 1 million pregnancies. I should have played the lottery with those odds.
I found different coping mechanisms to get me through the weeks that followed. I did my research and used that information to make informed decisions. For example, I ate an almost no-fat diet. I stuck to the minimum fats necessary to remain healthy to take that strain off my liver. But what worked the best was water. I drank water. A..lot…of…water. I had Sparkletts delivered and basically suckled that water cooler teat all day long. I was careful to not drink into excess, but I drank enough to keep my blood flushed at all times. There were a few indulgences that made things difficult. Two of my cousins were married that summer, one in June and the other in September, so the travel, humidity, and the Steak-n-Shake goodness that I could not resist did not make for the easiest time, but I would not have missed those events for the world. (Ask anyone there, by the second wedding, I was practically rolling myself down the halls!)
At 32 weeks though, something had changed. My liver function numbers were off the chart, and not in a good way. Dr. Gupta saw the writing on the wall. He ordered a steroid injection that week and again at 33 weeks. At 34 weeks he wanted to take a look at the amniotic fluid. The fluid can be analyzed to determine lung maturity, so the plan was to take a look to see when we could safely deliver. I knew from the day I was diagnosed that I’d have an early induction, but the original plan was 37 weeks. Not 34. 34 weeks. They say that 1 day in the womb is like 10 days outside of it (or something like that…I may have the 10 wrong, but you get the idea.)
So, I dropped Madison off at her school (half-day Kindergarten) and headed to my appointment. The plan was set. After my procedure, I’d return to Palmdale, pick her up, and go home to 24 hours of post-amnio bed rest. It was not my first time at that rodeo, so we knew what was expected. Or, we thought we did.
It takes several hours to perform the analysis. So no matter what, we knew we had at least a day. Or, we thought we did. Yeah, I keep saying that.
Dr. Gupta looked at the fluid as he was pulling it out and with a very concerned look he says, “you aren’t going anywhere. I’m inducing you today.”
Immediate thoughts? My child. My flesh-and-blood daughter was at half day Kindergarten. I had to leave to pick her up. Of course, a deep breath later, I realized that David could handle that part on his own. I didn’t want him to leave. I didn’t want to be alone. But most importantly, I wanted Madison cared for.
My non-hormonal other-half made those decisions with a clear and level head. He called in the troops (his mom, my dad) to help out in that department, as he headed off to handle the other things that we thought we had time for (like packing the hospital bag or whatever). He ended up staying home that night as I effaced and dilated thanks to Cytotec or Cervadil. My catheter experience with Madison was so miserable that I convinced a nurse to not give me one. When I’d get up for bathroom visits, I’d walk slow and pretend to be completely unaffected by the drug. (It makes you feel completely drunk, which as I’m sure you may know, affects the ability to walk.)
But back to my earlier “flesh-and-blood” comment. I’m not sure how many mothers discuss this one freely in a blog, but I will. When you go from one child to two, there comes a guilt phase. That’s probably the best word to describe it. I found myself wondering how in the world I could spare enough love for another child. You never know a love so powerful until you have had a child. There are no words to describe it. And then to think that you have to break off some of that for another person…it is impossible.
I agonized silently for months. I wanted this pregnancy. I wanted this baby, so badly. (He was years in the making, between not conceiving and miscarriages). But I feared that I (or we as humans) have this specific amount of love and everyone had to share it, like a pie. I wondered how one could decide how much goes where.
But I was wrong. I was way wrong. Love has no depth, or walls, or ceiling. I didn’t know this until the moment I held my son in my arms. I loved him the way that I loved his sister, and I loved her no less. Actually, I loved her more. I love her more every day. I love each of them more every day. Every moment.
34 weeks ago today I had that amniocentesis. 34 weeks ago tomorrow, Maddox made his grand entrance into this world.
I later learned that the fluid showed that he had already passed meconium in utero. Dr. Gupta knew that time was of the essence. At birth, Maddox had already inhaled the meconium. If we hadn’t induced, he wouldn’t have made it to his own birth day. That thought still makes me thank my lucky stars. I put my faith into my doctor and he took care of us.
Maddox had to spend his first week in the NICU. When I was discharged without him, I was devastated. I felt lost and alone. He had been with me every moment for those 34 weeks and suddenly, I was alone. He was not there with me.
He was not sick or critical. There was a mandatory five day NICU stay for any babies born before 35 weeks, but he stayed for a week because he received antibiotics via IV for that week. The meconium in his lungs was a bad combo for a preemie, so they wanted to make sure he would be fine. He wore a CPAP just after birthday and spent a day in an isolette for observation, but by the time I was discharged, his pediatrician said that he was basically working as an overpaid babysitter for me and that Maddox was quite healthy.
This wasn’t the type of NICU where micropreemies or critical cases were handled. They didn’t get a lot of traffic. And since he was not one of those patients, they limited our physical contact. They requested that we only handle him at feeding times and we reluctantly obliged. I do feel that they knew what they were doing, so I followed directions. Each morning I’d drop Madison off at Kindergarten and then I’d drive the 50 miles to deliver freshly pumped milk and to visit with him until I had to leave to pick Madison up from school. I pumped around the clock, as if he were there feeding on demand, to ensure that I wouldn’t lose my milk supply. As per normal, I overproduced in those early weeks, so when he left, I brought home about 8 full bags from the freezer. They came in handy at News Years! Hah!