Oh friends, I have so much swirling in my head these days. I have so much I want to write, say, express. We are hurt. Heartbroken. Devastated. It's been hard. Harder than hard. There is no doubt in my mind I will spend a significant portion of the next months (and years) working through it all. I am not going to be shy about it, mental health is a major priority right now. I want to be honest about that side of it. I have journaled, and cried, and spent hours looking at pictures of Hadley and remembering how she felt in my arms. We miss her all day everyday. She never got to come home with us, but our house is still, empty, and quiet without her here. We take it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I promise one day I will get back to my regular blogging life: recipes, trashy TV show commentary, our day to day life, but for now, this space is a memorial. I want to use this post to share about Hadley's birth story. I gave birth with great hope that my daughter would be okay and there was great excitement surrounding her birth. At that time, we had no idea the sickness affecting our sweet girl. I was just a "regular mom," having a baby and it was a really special time. I don't want to forget any of it!
On Sunday, June 12th, I woke up in a pretty bad mood. I had been in the hospital for 10 days at this point, and while I will admit the time on bed rest did go by quickly (thank you blogs, books, visitors, adult coloring books, trying new hair styles, nail painting, daytime TV), I was frustrated being monitored 24/7 by nurses. I felt FINE. I was dialated to a ZERO. I just wanted to go HOME, sleep in my own bed, shower in my own house. I was tired of being woken up 3 times a night for temperature checks and round the clock antibiotic pills. I had bruises up and down my arms from IV pokes and blood draws. Don't even get my started on hospital food. I lost 5 lbs. in my first 5 days simply because the portions were miniature. Each morning around 6:30, the doctor on call stopped in and did a quick check up. Usually these visits lasted a mere 5 minutes and ended with a comment like "Boring is good. Keep cooking that baby." After our fetal heart rate testing that afternoon (baby sounded great!), AJ headed home to do some laundry, rest a bit, and wait for the repair man as our air conditioning broke a few days before. I took an hour nap after he left and my dad arrived around 3:00 that afternoon. We hung out, chatted, he watched countless episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" with me (that, folks, is a GOOD dad), and played a trivia game on my phone. Around 5:30, he took me on a wheelchair ride to the cafeteria to get something to eat. I ordered a wrap and some chips and the second we sat down, I just felt "funny." Nothing hurt, I wasn't in pain, I just didn't feel right. It came out of nowhere. I picked at my food and about 10 minutes later, asked him to bring me back upstairs, I needed to page my nurse, I just knew something was off. The nurse came in right away and asked me about contractions....I had never felt a contraction before but was pretty sure I wasn't having them. I felt uncomfortable, but again, wasn't really in pain. She told me to lay on my side and she'd check on me in about half an hour. I texted AJ that I thought all was fine, but I just didn't feel right. He told me to text again when I knew more. The nurse paged the resident on call and they ordered a blood test and said they were coming in to examine me. Before all that happened, though, they took my temperature and bad news: I had a fever. I knew from all the talks the doctors and nurses gave me that a fever was a sign something was wrong with me, and potentially, with baby. The doctors called off my exam in the maternity room and asked that I be moved down to labor and delivery. The uncomfortable/achey feeling increased. I called AJ and told him to come back right away. I am so thankful my dad was with me during all this. I would have been very scared being on my own while all this was progressing quickly. I knew AJ would take about 25 minutes to get back, but in that time, I think I sent him about 5 texts with phrases like "drive faster!" "I'm scared, please hurry." It was about 7:00 now, and the the night nurses were coming on call. My new night nurse hugged me and told me "I was told you'd be the easiest patient ever. Looks like we're in for an exciting night." I burst into tears when AJ arrived, scared because it was still too early. I was 30 weeks, 5 days pregnant. I resolved with all my will to stay pregnant until week 34, I was so disappointed that I would never make it to that goal. My pregnancy was ending that night and I wan't ready, but mainly, I feared our sweet baby wasn't ready either.
Once I got to labor and delivery, I was told my blood draw report came back and showed some elevated cell counts: my body was beginning to show signs of illness. They hooked me up to the pitocin to start labor and told me this was the point of no return, baby was coming that night. They were worried she was in distress, her heart rate was erratic (and it had been perfect just 4 or so hours before) and I was feeling sick. I threw up all over my clothes and the nurses just cut me out of my Target maternity tank and put me in a gown. I was immediately hooked up to lots of IV's and the pain in my belly began to increase. It felt nothing like I expected. All the pain centered around my hips and lower back, it felt like my hips were stretching to their max and yes, by this point, it hurt. The doctors came in and told me I was dialated to a 3. About an hour later, I was at a 5. By this point, my dad had called my mom and she arrived with my sister and her boyfriend Joe. It was such a comfort to have my family there with me. I asked for my epidural (remember all the Hypnobirthing and breathing practice we worked on? Hahahaha, I was stressed because it was all so much so fast and I knew Hadley was in distress. This was not the time to be a hero I decided). I was scared out of my mind to get the epidural but I wanted a relief from the hip pain and I was told that should we need to have a C section and I didn't get the epidural, I would be put out completely. I did not want that at all. Within a few minutes, I felt sweet relief and it was delightful seeing my contractions on the screen and not feel a thing. I began to shake pretty violently and was told this is fairly normal in labor (did not know that!). I was sweating and felt burning hot so AJ put cool cloths on my face and I was able to close my eyes and rest for about an hour. It was about 11:30 now and the doctors came in again and said I was at a 7 and moving quickly. I continued to rest and try and stay cool for about another 45 minutes and then the doctors said I was at a 10. That's when things went from calm to crazy.
We need to get this baby out NOW, I heard the doctor day. They threw the epidural machine in bed with me, a nurse grabbed my IV pole, and 2 doctors, a nurse, and AJ went running down the hall to the operating room pushing me in my bed. We knew weeks before that Hadley would be delivered in the OR because she was preemie and she would be passed from that room directly into the NICU where she would receive immediate care. They threw AJ a surgical outfit (I guess that's what you'd call it?) and I remember him shaking as he rushed to put it on. They literally wheeled me right through the doors and shouted "Push now!" Luckily, even with the epidural, I felt the urge to push. I was parched and kept begging for water and they kept telling me no. I think I asked about 4 times. The nurses and doctors were excellent pushing coaches, but of course, AJ was the one really motivating me. Later, the nurses would tell us he was the best labor coach they had ever seen. I pushed with everything in me. I gave it my all. I remember thinking I would pass out from the strain. I tried to be lady-like and not make a noise, but that went out the window: I was pushing with all my might and there were grunts and yells like in the movies. Haha. Laboring was something I will always treasure. Doctors tell me I will most likely never labor again and will always have scheduled C sections in the future. Like I mentioned earlier, I knew Hadley's heart rate was not ideal and the spikes and dips shown on the monitor next to me proved that but overall I labored with the feeling that she would be just fine. It was chaos, but also there was a beautiful underlying hope with each push. I couldn't wait to meet our baby and couldn't believe it was really happening.
After a few minutes (might have been 5, might have been 20, I had no idea), the doctor came up by my head and said "Leslie, we need to get Hadley out as soon as possible. I know you want to labor this way and not have a C section. I can see her head, she is coming, but since she is so small, I cannot use tools to remove her. You need to do this. If she cannot come out with a few more pushes, we are moving to surgery." The pressure was on. I pushed with all I had in me, but in the end, the monitors beeping indicated she needed to be born ASAP and the pushes just couldn't get the job done fast enough. Within seconds, the room got even more chaotic and I was lifted onto the operating table. The next 2 minutes were pure hell. The anesthesiologist who gave me my epidural a few hours prior, came running in but there was not enough time for the meds to get to my body. I felt pulls, stretches, and cutting. I was screaming my head off. I remember thinking, this is not supposed to hurt, I am going to die. In about a minute, finally, my body began to calm and the pain melted away. AJ and the anesthesiologist were by my head and I was just laying there frozen in fear. I could hear the NICU nurses and doctors opening the window and preparing to catch Hadley. We were told later from the first cuts to Hadley being delivered, only about 3 minutes passed. I heard AJ say, "She's out!" and he told me how the doctor has scooped up Hadley and took her to the window. I heard no cries and my heart sank. I began frantically asking "Is she ok? Is she ok?" Doctors told me they had to work on sewing me up and would get us a report on her as soon as they could. I cried and proceeded to throw up all over the place. It felt like an eternity laying there, helpless.
The doctor said she was going to check on Hadley and I think I asked "Is she back yet?" about 100 times in ten minutes. She came back in and announced "She's stabilized." I will never forget that moment. I lifted my hands to the heavens and shouted out "She's fine!! Thank you Jesus, yes yes yes!" AJ and I sobbed and kissed and hugged. Immediately after, they said he could go see her while they finished working on me. I remember being pretty foggy as they wheeled me back to the labor and delivery room where my family was waiting. I told them I had a C section but Hadley was okay and AJ was with her. The doctor came in shortly and said AJ was the proudest dad they had ever seen. He was taking hundreds of pictures and would be in soon to show them to me. I remember dozing off, feeling really out of it. AJ came in and showed me pictures of our daughter and I burst into tears. I had so desperately wanted skin to skin time immediately after birth and my heart ached that I still had not met my daughter. But none of it mattered, we had our baby girl. In another hour, the NICU nurse came in to give us an update and that was the first indication that we were nowhere near the finish line on our fairy tale.....