Yesterday was my son’s 1 month birthday! And Sunday was his due date. Confused? What a story, one I want to try and remember before I completely forget.
Though I had a pretty healthy pregnancy with few ill effects, sometime during the last week of February I caught a whopper of a cold. It did the rounds of our family and even knocked poor Evelyn out for a full week. Since I was pregnant, I could only take paracetamol, but I managed OK. I took a few days off work, then went back, then a few days more. Pretty soon I hadn’t been at work for over a week and my coughs were shaking me silly. Every day, Evey would come to the side of my bed and say, “Mommy, you not feel well?” And every day, I tearfully had to answer that no, I still did not feel well. My doctor prescribed me some penicillin for a respiratory infection, but nothing seemed to shake it. Then, on March 13th, I was feeling just the tiniest bit better. I even thought about getting dressed for work. And then the pains started.
I was not having labor pains, but rather severe abdominal cramps that surged through my belly, up into my rib cage, chest and back. I thought it must be a mixture of heartburn and trapped wind, but no matter what position I was in, lying down, standing up, I could not ease the pain. I tried to eat some yogurt and toast, but it came back up. After several hours of pain, we called Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and the midwives advised me to come have it checked out. They brought me to a maternity ward and for the next few hours, I had groups of doctors, surgeons, midwives and obstetricians come in and puzzle over me. Appendix? Labor? Kidney infection? Blood and urine were taken and I was put on an IV of fluids as I was still vomiting bile. I was given a very uncomfortable ultrasound to check out the internal organs, what little could be seen behind the squirming infant in my tummy! Finally a speculative answer came – it appeared I had Pancreatitis, a condition usually identified with alcohol abusers or people with gallstones. In fact, one doctor told me the chances of a pregnant woman getting this type of pancreatic inflammation was around 1 in 15,000. Go figure.
They gave me some mild pain relief through the IV and I stayed the night while the consultants scheduled a morning meeting to decide what should be done. I was beyond exhausted and yet still struggled to rest. Frank stayed by my bed until I finally fell asleep during Masterchef and was back first thing in the morning. I was much the same. When the doctors came to talk to me they confirmed that yes, they believed it to be Pancreatitis and that they felt the best course of action, for both me and the baby, was to induce labor. I was scared because I didn’t know how I would have the energy to go through labor and I was worried for my little baby, but I did not hesitate to agree with the doctors’ wishes.
They started giving me steroids to strengthen the baby’s lungs for early delivery and scheduled my induction for the following morning. I don’t remember much from that day, except trying to rest while still being in terrible pain. As I dozed, a hunched little old nun came in with Communion and offered it to me. I told her I was not Catholic, but would she do a blessing? She broke out in a big smile and came over to me. Stroking my greasy head, she spoke a beautiful prayer asking the Lord to watch over me and the delivery of my baby, this blessed little child of Jesus.
Friday, the 15th of March, arrived and Frank and I waited anxiously to be taken to the delivery suite. I lay there contemplating how nothing was going according to plan. I was not getting to deliver in the Midwife Led Unit, which is where I had Evelyn and is a great facility for private, natural births. I was going to be induced, and I was going to get an epidural and Pitocin (oxytocin) to speed things along. My baby was coming nearly five weeks early and would have to be put in the NICU. I hadn’t even finished packing my hospital bag or getting things ready at home for a new baby. I’d been sick for the last three weeks!!! It wasn’t supposed to go this way.
All that said, the labor went brilliantly well. It couldn’t have gone better, in fact. It was fairly quick and painless and somewhere, somehow, I was able to push out our little baby boy, who weighed 5 lbs. 10 oz. and gave a good yell as soon as he was out! We only got to hold him briefly before they took him away to his little incubator. We named him Shea Patrick Kelly.
From then on, I spent the next several days in the post-natal unit of the hospital, totaling eight days in all. I can’t say it was the best part of my experience, mainly because I was sharing a ward with five other women and their babies and it was anything but restful. It was entertaining at times, though! Some of my neighbours were very colourful characters. 🙂 And the midwives and nurses who looked after me were top notch. Mostly, though, I just lay on my bed with the curtains pulled around me, listening to them shush their babies and chat to each other about names and breastfeeding and labor. Every few days there would be a “changing of the guard” as they were discharged and a new group of women and children arrived. I kept to myself, for though I would have liked to join in the conversations, I just didn’t feel right. I was still in pain and it was an industrial breast pump, not a sweet newborn baby, which took up the space by my bed.
I visited Shea several times a day, first by wheelchair and then slowly walking on my own to the separate special unit. I had a hard time connecting to him – he was in a plastic incubator, hooked up to tubes and wires, his heel a pincushion for blood samples. I knew I should feel lucky that he was strong and healthy, a good weight, only really in need of antibiotics and a bit of breathing assistance. There were many babies much smaller and in more serious condition than he. But I still sat there, my mind drifting away with the beeping of the machines. Within a few days, I could hold him and even feed him, but it was hard work! He really just wanted to sleep and sleep and the nurses in the NICU were very strict about his milk intake. If he didn’t consume a bottle in the right amount of time, it was given to him through a tube. I found it stressful to cope with their expectations, even though they were kind and simply taking the best care of him that they could.
On Wednesday morning, a week after I had checked into Our Lady of Lourdes, I was discharged. I was happy that I could finally go home to Frank and Evelyn, but as I took my shower and got ready, I was overcome with a grief like I’ve never known when I thought about leaving my baby. Again, I knew I was very lucky – we live within sight of the hospital and he was getting stronger by the day, probably only due to stay another week or two in the special care unit. But rational thought was not my strength during these days and it was incredibly hard to pack up my things and leave my little boy to the nurses. I also had a certain sense of dread in returning to a home where I had just spent the previous three weeks being sick and miserable. I cried a lot that day.
Meanwhile, Evelyn was having struggles of her own. She had watched her mommy be sick in bed for weeks and then suddenly get taken to the hospital. Now her mommy was home, but there was no baby brother, though everyone talked about him. Evey started acting strangely shy, and all potty-training went out the window. She threw hysterical tantrums we could not calm. All we could do was try to hold our tempers and show her lots of love. The month of March was hard on us all!!!
The end of the story is, of course, a happy one. We brought Shea home on Sunday, March 24th. He had not gained back all his birth weight yet, but he had finally taken to breastfeeding (yay!) and was really starting to thrive. I was so glad to see the backside of the hospital, even though our experience with the staff there had been unparalleled.
Here we are, a month later and Shea and I are both doing great. He is lively and strong, with fair blonde hair and sweet features, very similar to Evelyn’s at this age. He’s a great eater and sometimes sleeper. And regardless of any of these extensive details of his entrance into the world, he’s won our hearts and we are delighted with every bit of his tiny self. His big sister, Evelyn, is proud as punch of him, though still occasionally peeved with Frank and me for all the drama that has been our lives for the last while.
As for the respiratory infection and Pancreatitis? Well, the former has cleared up, thank God, and the latter has improved as well. I have some follow up appointments in the next few weeks to determine why I was plagued with this condition and whether or not it will be chronic or not.
I am just so grateful at this stage to be back in my own home, enjoying the Spring sunshine when it comes, and feeling free and healthy enough to just love, love, love on my family. I am so thankful and genuinely blessed to have my kids here and well at my side in addition to my amazing husband, who held my hand through everything and managed our household (and a film project!). My life was truly put in perspective during these frustrating weeks and all the petty things I seem to worry about just disappeared. I’m thankful for the wisdom of the doctors and the care of the midwives, nurses and staff. The help and prayers of our families were immeasurable. All in all, I’m just pretty darn lucky. I thank God every day for the way things turned out. I can’t think what I might have done in my life to deserve so much.
It might all sound trite or silly, and I know this is a ludicrously long blog post, but I just had to get it all down so I will always remember the full-to-the-brim joy, pride and peace that is soaring through my heart since the day I met our little Shea. Thanks for following our journey.