They tell you that parenthood is hard... But they don't really tell you how hard it truly is... Or maybe they try, but our joy and naivete blocks out our ability to comprehend...
So the way I "went into labor" (I didn't really know how to word that another way and get my point across clearly...) was dramatic in itself. One day I go in thinking I still have at least a week. Turns out I had less than 24 hours. You can never fully prepare yourself, no matter how hard you try. But I still felt like the plug on my prep time was yanked out way too soon!
Here are some things I've gone through since we had her:
1. While we were in the hospital, Arabella had trouble keeping her sugar levels high enough. So she had to get her heel pricked and an Accucheck done before she ate every time. She needed to get three good tests in a row before they could stop checking her. We got two good ones and then she plummeted. They ended up having to put her on an IV (they literally had to try 10 times before being able to get one started) and we had to spend 24 hours of going to the nursery to feed her and spend time with her. She couldn't come to our room while she was on the IV--this was a lot harder to go through than we expected. It wasn't anything major, but it was still stressful and worrisome. I cannot imagine parents who have to leave their babies in the NICU or have to witness them suffer and worry if they will make it. It absolutely breaks my heart. Anywho, the IV did the trick and her levels came up. She got tested every time she ate in the hospital--we didn't even know if we'd leave on Friday, so nervous about getting that last test result back! It came back perfect, she ate, and we were out of there!
2. Also while in the hospital, I had problems of my own. I have learned that I may be a goody-two-shoes in most aspects of my life, but as a patient, my body likes to make me a trouble-maker. My blood pressure was still not great--much lower than it had been at the point of delivery, but still not near low enough for my age and health. Plus my blood counts got extremely low. I never felt any of the symptoms I was supposed to, but I was white as a ghost. According to every medical professional I've talked to about it, I should have been so dizzy that I couldn't walk. My counts got down to 5.9 and I was on the verge of getting a transfusion if they didn't start coming up asap. When I was discharged that Friday, they were still in the low 6's, but my progress and the way I felt were convincing enough to let the doctor let me go. This led to multiple drawings of my blood--and I HATE needles...
3. So people who have children always tell you how you'll never sleep again once you have kids and to enjoy sleeping while you can. But you don't really appreciate those words. You don't really understand the severity they are trying to explain to you. You get SOOOO tired. This has been especially hard for me because if there is one thing I have always love love loved--it is sleep. I knew that was going to be one of my hardest things to have to lose; but geezum pete's. Being a mama is absolutely exhausting. Fair warning to all of you soon-to-be parents: the first six weeks are extremely difficult. And as I'm sure you've heard, you won't be sleeping much once they arrive.
4. Another one of my struggles during those first few weeks was nursing. We started out well and I really thought this would work out. But I found myself getting annoyed and frustrated, usually when it came to feeding time. It was absolutely exhausting to be the only one who could feed her. This meant I could get very little to no help during the night; any time we were out somewhere or people were over I had to deal with modesty and privacy; it consumed me. Plus, at her two week appointment, she hadn't gained enough weight (not even back to her birth weight). So the Dr. wanted me to see how much I was producing--which turned out to not be enough. Therefore we had to start supplementing with formula. Push came to shove and it was just not working out. So after three very draining weeks, we decided to hang up the towel and switch to formula completely. That was a mess all on its own too as it turns out that Bella has a very sensitive tummy. We've landed on the soy formula and things have gotten so much better since.
5. One night--actually two weeks exactly after I had her--my fantastic husband was kind enough to take me and Bella to my stamp club gathering. I was so excited to be able to go and we had a great time! But that night, out of nowhere, I snapped. At about 3:30 that morning, after she had been just screaming and screaming, I brought her to Hunter and screamed for him to just take her. I was sobbing, she was sobbing, and he was confused. Those next days and weeks were really hard. I struggled with post partum depression--and Hunter was the only one I would talk to (which completely exhausted and worried him). My sister luckily picked up on my tiny mood changes (I was pretty decent at seeming ok on the outside) and she flew down for an intervention of her own. It's very real and it's very scary. I won't go into the details of it here because I don't feel that it's the proper venue to delve into something so personal and internal. But please please please call your doctor and get help if you start seeing the signs--or husbands, call if you notice your wife's signs but she can't see them for herself. You'll feel like you're crazy and alone, but you're not. Nursing turned out to be one of my major triggers. The hormones and exhaustion that it brought, on top of my struggles with production were enough to send me over the edge.
6. Sunday, November 20--we had gone to Lake Charles that afternoon/evening for the visitation of the son of a family friend who had passed away. We went out to eat with my family at Steamboat Bill's and Aby came home with us. She was supposed to stay with us that week and we would bring her back for Thanksgiving. We had been planning this for months--her special visit to Gigi's when she was out of school to help take care of Bella. It was just going to be the three of us and that little girl was beside herself waiting for that trip. Anyway, we got home and Hunter and our neighbor, Jonathan, starting working on his little POC car, "speed racer". They took it out for a drive to see if anything would break so that he would know if it was safe to drive to work the next day (he was afraid he had broken an axle). While they were playing, Brandi (Jonathan's wife) came over to play with Bella :). The boys came home with a pretty pink present--a nice little ticket he had gotten for peeling out... Brandi and I went into Bella's room to change her diaper before they went home (and so I could chew Hunter a good one for that ticket!). While we were standing there, my rib cage started to hurt pretty bad and I could tell I just wasn't feeling well. So I went and sat next to Aby on the couch. After about a minute I could tell it was just getting worse so I told Hunter to come take Bella and I stretched out on the couch trying to ease the pain. Hunter was too busy yakking with Jonathan about the car to really notice that I was slipping fast. My sister caught my eye and I was able to mouth, "I'm not ok" to her. Within five minutes of the initial pain, I couldn't breathe and the pain was radiating under my rib cage all the way around me like a donut, and up my spine and into my shoulder blades. I was terrified. Michelle rushed Aby with Bella into our bedroom so she didn't see what was going on and get scared. Thank the Lord Jesus she was there to help us with the kids. Hunter called 911 and I was taken to the ER by ambulance. Talk about feeling like time was passing by like molasses... Both the wait for them to get there and the ride to the hospital felt like an eternity. Every bump we hit jarred the pain in my body so badly. It was miserable. That night I had two EKG's, an x-ray, blood work, oxygen, an IV, sugar levels tested...tons of stuff. But they couldn't find the cause. We asked about my gallbladder (Melonie had a similar attack 6 weeks after having Evan and that was the culprit), but the doctor there dismissed it because the bloodwork came back perfect. They gave me pain medicine and after 4 1/2 hours of absolute misery, the pain finally subsided. Since they didn't know what was wrong, they sent me home (even though my BP was still very high, I was four weeks post partum, and something was definitely wrong...).
7. So there I sat, not sure what had happened to me and terrified that it would happen again. With my history of high BP along with all of the heart troubles in my family, we were worried that it might be something with that. We still weren't totally convinced it wasn't my gallbladder though. The EMT had suggested my diaphragm (if I had picked up something too heavy, the nerves are actually affected by those in your shoulders) and my OB had hypothesized my esophagus. I just knew I didn't want it to happen again. But on Tuesday, November 29, it did. It wasn't as quick or intense this time--probably because I could tell what was going on when it started so I didn't get quite as worked up. I tried sitting up, laying on the couch, taking an asprin. After about two hours of the pain just getting worse, I gave up and we headed back to the ER. The same doctor was there and once again didn't know what was going on. Mom and dad drove over again, this time to help with Bella since we had her with us. He did a CAT scan this time which revealed a decent sized kidney stone, which he attributed my pain to. But the stone is still in my kidney and even he admitted that I shouldn't be feeling any pain from it while it's in my kidney. Again we asked about the gallbladder and again he dismissed it. I was given pain medicine, prescriptions for an antibiotic, and sent home with a referral to a urologist. When I went in to my PCP to get the referral for insurance purposes, he didn't buy it and highly suspected my gallbladder. He sent me for an ultrasound that afternoon, and sure enough, mine was full of stones. It had to come out.
8. I was released from my C-Section on Tuesday, December 6 and had surgery to remove my gallbladder on Wednesday December 7. I couldn't eat or drink past midnight the night before--then my surgeon was running late so I didn't even go into the operating room until 4:30 (2 hours late). I was starving! When I woke up from the surgery, I again had a reaction to the anesthesia and was throwing up until after midnight. There was literally nothing left in my stomach--it was miserable. I also woke up to find out that I had problems with arrythmia during the surgery and once again, my BP was higher than it should have been. So in came the cardiologist--I guess my body didn't think I had enough doctors yet. The day after surgery (Thursday), I was only on a liquid diet until my doctor approved of more--he didn't make his rounds until 9:00 that night. So I had had two bowls of broth, two cups of juice, and five bowls of jello. That's it since dinner Tuesday night. I was SO hungry. He gave Hunter the go ahead to get me a milkshake--I love love love Chick-Fil-A's peppermint chocolate chip shakes, but let me tell you...none has ever tasted as good as that one did that night. I was supposed to be able to only stay one night in the hospital for monitoring and be released the next day. That way it could technically be an outpatient surgery. But with all of my heart problems, I was hooked up to a monitor and kept another night. So we didn't get to go home until 5:00 Friday evening. We were so tired of being up there. Thank the Lord for our phones. We weren't planning on being there anywhere near that long so we didn't have anything to occupy our time--well, Hunter was able to work most of the time, but I was plain bored. I'm recovering well though, so hopefully things are on the up and up for me now. (oh, and the pictures of my gallbladder once he got it out--it looked like one of the bad scenarios he showed us in his office...I had a ton of stones).
It has definitely been a crazy and difficult seven weeks since we've had her. So much has gone on and we've added sleep deprivation on top of it. We are incredibly grateful for our family and friends for all of their help and support. Our family who was able to stay with us and take night duty some nights were incredible. My mom, sister, and mother-in-law who were able to come stay with us during the day while I was recovering (both times) were beyond helpful--cooking, cleaning, and letting me nap just to name a few ways! Our church family for preparing meals for us (both times) and praying for us meant so much and helped tremendously. Plus we've been able to visit and spend some great time with friends and family since.
We're adapting to this new lifestyle. Hopefully things will calm down for a little while (at least with me physically!) and we can get into a little bit of a routine. Here's hoping!