This evening Elena will be 1 week old. And I’m finally getting a chance to tell her birth story on here!
The sequence of events preceding her arrival were quite overwhelming and far from what we expected. However, she is here and we are doing well, and that is the only thing that matters!
On January 25, 2013, I went into work, expecting another day in the office, followed by one final week-end to get things ready for our baby girl. I had hoped to go into labor, but after my appointment on Wednesday, was not feeling optimistic about it. Little did I know how everything would change in a matter of hours.
I had a chiropractic appointment that day and, as I was sitting there in the office, realized I had not felt a ton of movement. This had been the case more and more lately, but everything was always great with her when checked. I had started carrying my doppler with me so I could check in here and there to ease my anxiety. I drove back to work after my appointment, and I took a minute in the parking garage to check her heartbeat before going back to work. And I’m very glad I did.
As soon as I turned on the doppler, her heart rate was in the 220s/230s. It would stay there for a few seconds, then jump back down to a normal fetal rate, then up again. I assumed that the doppler was likely picking up my own heartbeat as well as hers, which does happen. After no more than a moment’s hesitation, I called Nathan to tell him I was going in to get checked. I quickly grabbed Liam from daycare and met Nathan at the hospital. At first he thought he would just take Liam home, but I decided he should stay long enough to make sure everything was ok, then he could take Liam home.
I went up to the Women’s Evaluation Unit, and was surprised there was no wait to get me into a room. In the past, I’d always had to wait at least 30 minutes or more to be seen. They strapped me to a monitor and said “let’s get you some peace of mind”. Baby girl’s heart rate was just as I had heard it on my doppler – jumping up to the 220s and all the way up to 250, then back down to the normal rate. Less than 5 minutes later, the nurse was back in the room to ask me when I had last eaten or drank water. When I asked if I could have a drink, and she said “I don’t know if you can have a drink yet”, I knew that I likely wouldn’t be going back home.
They quickly explained my situation to the on-call doctors, and decided to move me to Labor & Delivery for some more monitoring. It didn’t take long for them to decide the baby was going to be born that night, and even less time to decide she would be coming by c-section. Due to her erratic heartbeat, they said there was no way to determine if she was in distress, and so they felt it was safer to get her out as quickly as possible rather than risk her being unable to tolerate labor. While the doctors (including a neonatologist) were collaborating, Nathan had been busy making arrangements for some friends to come get Liam. I asked the doctor if we had time for them to get there, and they said yes, but the baby was coming out within 2 hours, so we needed to hurry.
When I had made the decision to go to the hospital, I had thankfully decided to let our birth photographer and doula know, as they had asked me to keep them updated about all things baby-related as we got closer to the time. Our doula arrived and was able to help with Liam while anesthesiology gave me my epidural and until our friends arrived to take him to their house. Our birth photographer was able to join us a bit later, and the doctors said it was fine for her to be in the operating room, and I’m very glad about that. They wouldn’t wait for her to get there, but promised to lead her in as soon as she arrived, which was well before they began the procedure.
I was very nervous about the c-section. I’ve never had surgery before, and they kept referring to it as “major surgery”, which was a little frightening. But the stress of the entire situation made me sleepy, and for that reason alone I was able to remain mostly calm. I laid there and kept closing my eyes, as I needed to shut everything out around me in order to get through it. I was obviously much more worried for our baby than myself, but the whole thing was a lot to absorb in a very short amount of time.
At 7:08 p.m., our little lady arrived. Thankfully, just a few days before, we had finalized her name: Elena Juliet. I didn’t hear anything for a brief second, and then I heard the joyous sound of her cries. I couldn’t see her for several minutes, but everyone kept going on about how much hair she had and asking if I’d experienced much heartburn (I didn’t!). Nathan went over and took a picture with his phone so I could see her sweet face, and I saw that head of hair for myself!
After an initial in-room examination, the neonatologist told us everything was perfect besides her heart rate, and they simply wouldn’t be able to determine what was causing it to beat so irregularly without an EKG. We were told to expect an answer within 24 hours. They brought her by for a quick kiss, and then took her to the NICU. Nathan stayed with me while they put me together again, then he went to the NICU while I went to recovery, accompanied by our doula (she wasn’t able to be in the operating room).
A little later Nathan came to the recovery room to tell me that she weighed 8 lbs 6 oz and was 20.75″. And he also told me they had already found the answer to her condition!
An EKG had shown her pediatric cardiologist that her condition is something called Supraventricular Tachycardia. It’s not uncommon in infants, and usually resolves itself by 6 months of age, if not sooner. They told us they would be trying Digoxin and, if that didn’t work, there were other things they could do as well. She couldn’t eat until the situation was resolved.
After 2 hours in recovery, they wheeled me into the NICU where I was able to spend a few precious minutes with her before going to my room for the next several days. I was exhausted after all of the excitement, and we went immediately to bed, although the evening was far from restful as my vitals were being checked often.
The next morning, we learned that Elena had responded wonderfully to the Digoxin, and not much later we learned that I could finally feed her around noon. They told us to expect her to remain admitted for 5 nights, but they would consider releasing her when I was discharged myself after 4 nights. After a long 4 nights in the hospital filled with trips to the NICU to feed her and back to my room to receive meds and eat, our discharge day finally came, and we received the best news: they were allowing Elena to come home, too! We were both discharged on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.
The last few days have been wonderful – it is so great to have her all to ourselves and to not have to leave her in the NICU. She’s such a sweet, sweet baby, preferring sleep to most other things including eating. We wake her every 3 hours to check her heartbeat, change her diaper, and feed her. And then twice a day we administer her Digoxin by mouth. She’ll be going to the pediatric cardiologist regularly. Other than that, we are doing all of the normal newborn things.
I still can’t believe she is here, and I’m so very grateful she is thriving. A minor heart condition likely to be outgrown I am able to handle. Far, far worse things could have happened. Things I can’t even let my mind consider.
We are still adjusting to our new arrival, and I’m feeling good, but still recovering and won’t be able to resume normal activities for 6 weeks. Unfortunately, that includes lifting Liam, which I absolutely hate. He doesn’t quite understand it either. But I’ve been letting him crawl into my lap in the evenings, and he seems mostly satisfied with that. He also adores his baby sister. The first thing he does when he gets home from daycare is go looking for “baby”, and he constantly wants to hold her so he can kiss her. He also likes to see her in the co-sleeper and the Rock N Play. The other day he pointed to the co-sleeper and said “in there?”, after which I put her inside, and he said “yaaaay!” It’s very cute to watch him with her, and I can’t wait to see their sibling relationship develop.
Here are a few pictures I took both in the hospital and at home (with the exception of the first two, which are sneak peeks from Donna Harris Photography). Unfortunately, as her birth was completely unexpected, I only had my phone camera in the hospital. I should have our professional pictures back in a couple weeks, and I am very excited to share those when they arrive. Her newborn photography session is on Monday.