Greetings and Happy New Year to all you pats of butter!
And may I present to you the newest member of our posse, Miss Clara Jane Michaelis!
Quick stats: Clara was born at 10:02 pm on Thursday, December 27th. She weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces and was 19.5 inches long.
Now for the story…
But first, a little background. I had terrible heartburn throughout my entire pregnancy. In early December, it got so bad that I went to the E.R. They gave me some medicine to try and numb it and when that did not work, they gave me some Benadryl which also did not work. I ended up going home in severe, toe-curling pain and finally fell asleep sitting completely upright and hunched over a pillow.
I had bouts of heartburn a few more times but it was manageable with Pepcid AC. Then a couple weeks later, I had another very severe flair-up and found no relief…yet again.
Fast forward a couple more weeks to my 36-week doctor’s appointment which involved doing a swab for strep (down there) and also an exam. The swab stung a little and when my midwife performed the exam she told me I was doing great, 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced. As I got dressed after the exam, I began to bleed immediately. I let my midwife know and she said it was totally normal due to the exam.
That night and into the next day, I experienced a stinging sensation when I went pee. It felt different from a UTI, but the symptoms were similar. I called my midwife and after discussing all the possibilities and the fact that my labs wouldn’t be back until after Christmas to confirm or deny whether I did indeed have a UTI, I decided I would start a powerful antibiotic to treat the UTI. David went to pickup the prescription at Walgreens and also got a UTI test-kit from AZO. I took the test and it came back negative so David urged me to go to Zoom Care for a UTI test, as they can get instant results. We went to Zoom Care around 8:30 pm and I took the test. No UTI. The resident doctor that night came into the room and we explained my symptoms and she asked if she could do an exam on me. I said yes and she found two small abrasions, explaining the stinging sensation. My blood pressure was also high. We ended up telling the doctor about the heartburn and the fact that we were exploring the idea it could be my gallbladder but that we did not know for sure because we did not have a chance to do an ultrasound. She offered an ultrasound on the spot and we took it. The ultrasound revealed that my gallbladder was fine, and the pain I was experiencing was just severe heartburn. To be safe, the doctor then asked if she could draw some blood (which I hate) for some quick labs on me. Of course I said yes and when she returned with the results, she started with “I am going to call your doctor’s office tonight and speak with the midwife on call.” My platelets were at 52. I had no idea what this meant and she did not go in to any great detail explaining it either. I went home, expecting that we would talk to my midwife the next day once she looked at my labs.
We ended up not seeing her until five days later when I had my 37-week appointment. I did the usual routine of peeing in a cup and getting weighed. I was dehydrated and my blood pressure was high again, but not off the charts. Then we had a discussion about all the bloodwork and information we had found out while at ZoomCare. After looking it over, my midwife decided to do another blood draw. She was concerned about the platelets and some of the other levels in my blood as well. Additionally, the quick results from my urine contained elements that concerned her..and they pointed to pre-eclampsia. She sent us home with all the materials I would need to do a 24-hour urinalysis the next morning. She said she would call us the minute my labs came back with further instruction but to start the test no matter what.
That night we went bowling with friends. I went bowling. I felt fine.
The next morning, David called my doctor’s office around 10 am to see if the results were in. They were not, but we knew they had been placed on a rush. 30 minutes later, we got a call from the doctor. This time, it was our midwife herself (not her assistant, per usual). She said, “Natalie, you are very sick. You and David need to go to the hospital right now. You have something called H.E.L.L.P syndrome. You are having this baby as soon as possible.”
I. Was. Of course. SHOCKED.
I told her we could be there in an hour and she said that was too long. I needed to get there ASAP. Holy balls. This was happening. David chatted excitedly and began to throw items into duffel bags while I tried to process what was happening. I began to stuff random items into a bag and before I knew it, David was whisking us away to Good Sam while I scratched my head and tried to navigate the 1,000 degrees of anxiety hitting me all at once.
They checked us in as soon as we arrived and I was immediately clad in a hospital gown and they started IVs in both of my arms. I was given liquids and magnesium. The magnesium, they warned, might make me feel woozy or sick. It was administered in order to relax my body and warn off seizures which can happen with pre-eclampsia. We immediately began to go over my options. In several cases, a c-section may have been preferred to get the baby out as soon as possible but my case was unique in that my blood counts were so bad. My midwife and the doctor recommended a typical delivery and said in many cases, sometimes all it takes is an invitation. Also, my labs had revealed that my platelets had come up to 84 from 52, meaning that I could have an epidural. Most anesthesiologists will not do them below 80.
We started pitocin and my midwife broke my water. Immediately I felt 1,000 pounds lighter. It was crazy. Then I started feeling the contractions and yeah, they hurt. Mine were somewhat random but instead of having one every so often, I would get two or three in a row and then a rest. The midwife surmised that the baby would come out by 7 am the next day. Then I had my epidural. Oh, the ever-famous epidural. I had been anticipating this moment for the past 9 months. We practiced the correct “position” to take and as she prepped my back and did her thing, the nausea, sweating and very intense dizziness began. I was having an all-out, raging panic attack and I went in and out of consciousness as David sat directly in front and held me. As soon as I was able to lay back down, the nausea and dizziness slowly subsided and within 20 minutes I felt the warm numbing sensation begin….down the right side of my body. I was still feeling the contractions on my left so they had me lay on my left to let gravity take over and hopefully nudge the meds down that side of my body. After a few more rounds of contractions, we realized it wasn’t working so the anesthesiologist came back and recommended they manipulate the position of the epidural slightly. This required me to sit up and assume the “position” again, which sent me into the same episode as before. Ugh. I laid back down on my left once again to no avail. My midwife then recommended we try moving me onto my back.
The SECOND I shifted onto my back my midwife said something under her breath to the nurses, looked up and said “Okay, you’re having this baby right now”. I went from 4 cm to 10 cm JUST LIKE THAT (which I would later find out is very typical with pre-eclampsia as your body is basically ejecting the baby). They gave me a mask I could breathe into with a 50/50 nitrous/oxygen blend. and I began to push around 9 pm. And really, it was no big deal. The epidural was definitely working on that part of me and the nitrous was AWESOME. I took deep, soothing breaths into the mask and was immediately calmed and actually able to be present in the experience. I know these kinds of things can be controversial but I felt as though these interventions were MADE for people like me. I welcomed the help and truly do not know what I would have done without it.
So I pushed for about an hour, but I had these giant gaps between contractions. Sometimes up to 12 minutes. It was pretty fun to just be chillin’ like that, just on display for what seemed like ever (haha) but the fact that the Blazers were playing made it fun. You see, the Blazers were playing the Warriors that night and the game was super close. I did a couple big ol’ pushes as the Blazers headed into overtime and then experienced a 12 minute gap as the Blazers clawed their way to victory. When the last contraction came on, I knew I was darn close so I pushed hard and wouldn’t you know it? CJ McCollum, (David’s favorite player) hit a jumper to put the Blazers ahead in overtime. Clara Jane was born at that exact moment. It was kismet. We had loved the name Clara and Claire throughout my whole pregnancy and this just sealed the deal. We chose “Jane” for her middle name and there you have it, our little CJ.
DON’T CRY NATALIE. GOSSHH.
They wiped her off a tiny bit (at our behest) and set her directly on my chest. I couldn’t believe it. She was on me. Me. I HAD A BABY. The girl who still loves Hello Kitty and matching her eyeshadow to her outfit sometimes. The girl who dances awkwardly similar to Eliane Benes. The girl who still gets lost in her neighborhood, after almost 2 years. ME. I am her mom. Holy t*ts. I did not feel one singular emotion, instead all of them mixed together in this overwhelming, wonderful concoction. I did not cry (still dehydrated) but was definitely deliriously happy. She was here!
Meanwhile, my midwife went to work on me…and she worked her ass off. Turns out I had 5 pretty minimal tears but tears nonetheless. And they would not. stop. bleeding. After about 30 minutes, they handed baby to David next to me and told my mom and sister to leave the room. At this point, about 15 people rushed into the room. I was told it was people from departments all over the hospital. They worked on me for an hour and a half and (again, we found this all out later) were stitching and stitching and every stitch she made “dissolved into nothing”. I was losing an absolute sh*t load of blood. They kept talking to me, encouraging David to keep me talking, but I was fading.
My midwife and the doctor were eventually able to get things under control and the team left. It was about 1 am at this point. They encouraged David to put the baby down and get some sleep. They continued to monitor me. I was doing okay and my midwife and doctor left.
I remember coming to around 2:30 am and the nurses kept checking my pain level, asking “Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10”. I felt fine so I told them I was around a 1 or 2. Within 10 minutes of saying that, I noticed a pretty significant increase in my pain down there. I told the nurse it was at about a 5. Another 10 minutes passed by and my pain had just skyrocketed. I was at an 11 out of 10, I told them. Mind boggling, horrendous pain had completely taken over and I sobbed and sobbed as they ran to get the anesthesiologist. THANK THE LORD the nurses had not taken out my epidural yet, because the anesthesiologist was able to at least get me some lidocaine on the spot, which took the edge off the pain. She then administered something more powerful and I felt nothing once again. However, in between all the action, the nurses kept looking at me and I heard the word hematoma. More and more of the L&D nurses came in to take a look and they all agreed that it was probably a hematoma. My midwife and doctor were called back and as soon as they checked me, they confirmed it was a hematoma.
Around 3:30 am, the nurses asked me to call someone who could come down and help David with the baby. I called my mom, calmly explained what was happening (I had no idea how serious my state was at this time) and could she hop in an Uber to help hold the baby while they took me in another room for “a procedure”. Of course, she said yes.
The nurses frantically began disconnecting me from the 17 (yes, 17) things I was hooked into and asked me “Should we wake David?” as they wheeled me down the hall to the OR. I had no idea of the severity of my situation. I thought they’d drain the thing and that would be that. I told them to let David sleep. I’d be right back…Hahahahaaa.
This is where things took a turn for the worse.
Without getting too graphic, I’ll do my best to explain what happened. They removed all the stitches and went to work to remove and repair the tennis-ball sized hematoma I had down there. They also placed two “balloons” in there to put pressure in order to stop the bleeding. It seemed pretty straight forward and at first, I was stable. After about an hour, the repairs they had made were no longer holding and the bleeding was not stopping. They could not locate the source of the bleeding inside of me, and things got pretty serious.
The doctors had some serious questions for David at this point and also needed his permission to do an angiogram on me. An angiogram is where they place a stint inside your major artery and pump liquid dye inside to track where the blood is going and hopefully, stop it. David consented and I was taken to the IR to have this done. They ended up finding the source, two spots inside of me where they placed teeny coils to stop the bleeding. This is what really saved my life because had the bleeding continued, it could have gone into my lungs or other places they did not want it to go. I had lost all of the blood in my body, and had received 4 units of blood and 2 units of cold plasma.
At this point, I was taken to the ICU where I spent a couple of days being very closely monitored. I had wires, tubes and monitors attached to basically every appendage including my feet. When I finally came to, a nurse from L&D introduced me to the ICU nurse who was taking care of me. They sort of explained what had happened and that the most important thing for me to do was rest, which was why I was in the ICU. David came in with the baby at one point and the L&D nurses kept coming down to check on me as well, but I was very lonely. I wanted to see my daughter and husband. The next day I finally got to leave the ICU and head back up to the 5th floor to the maternity ward to be with David and Clara. Seeing their faces again was total bliss.
Over the next few days, I was bedridden. They put these air boots on me that inflated and deflated to promote blood circulation. David made sure I was eating and drinking as much as possible, but I really had no appetite. My biggest motivation at this point was to take a shower, but I was not able to even put my feet on the ground without getting completely out of breath.
After two days of being back in our room, one of the other doctors (Dr. Davis) came in to talk to us about the state of my blood. He did an amazing job of explaining exactly what had happened to me, what they did to help me and why. Then he spelled out all the reasons why I felt so weak and would have a long road to recovery. It all boiled down to my blood counts (red blood cells, platelets, liver enzymes, creatinine, etc) being low. He recommended another blood transfusion to try and boost these numbers and David and I agreed.
I received another 2 units of blood that day, but my IV’s were starting to really hurt. I did not think this would be a big deal, and that I was probably done using them but I was wrong. After the transfusion, my blood pressure was still really high (up around 190/114) so they kept treating me for that as well. The first medication they tried on me (levatol) was brutal. It was a very high volume and I had to receive it pretty frequently. The IV sites hurt really bad when I received the medicine and I just wished there was ANY other way I could take them. After the first medication proved not to work, they tried the next one down the line. Thankfully, they took out one of the IV’s that really hurt and used my other arm for the next one. This medication worked like a charm and my blood pressure went back down. They also put me on a slow-release blood pressure medication which I am still taking today. I ended up also developing a pretty severe rash on the entire back side of my body. It spread down to the backs of my knees all the way up to the back of my neck. The assumption was that it was a reaction to the medical tape I had ALL OVER my body and they gave me Benadryl and Hydrocortizone cream for it.
My whole immediate family had been in town during the ordeal and were staying at our house, visiting us everyday. I do not know what I would have done without them. My Mom came back to the hospital in the middle of the night when I had my hematoma. My Dad sat with me for hours in the ICU and read me the entire menu in his best radio voice. Megan cut Clara’s umbilical cord! (And she was actually admitted to the hospital as well for a night due to some light bleeding. She left the next day totally fine, but it makes for a crazy story!) And Amy ran back and fourth from our house to the hospital, running errands, taking care of me and everyone else.
I left the hospital a week after having the baby. I knew every single L&D nurse and had become good friends with a few of them. I was totally overwhelmed the day we were leaving. I was of course in a good amount of pain, hormonal, traumatized from what had just happened to me and then of course anxious about every facet of brand spanking new motherhood. We made it home and my mom had the house spic and span, my favorite candle burning (Marshmallow Fireside from BBW) and all our laundry was done.Did I mention I love my mom?
So that’s the story. I knew I needed to write it all out and I feel better now that I have. If you read this entire thing, thank you.
And speaking of thanks, there is one person who I need to thank and skip ahead if you’re not into cringey, sappy proclamations of love. To my David. There is absolutely no way I would have gotten through this without you. Seeing your face after getting out of the ICU was just…everything. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. Thank you for taking care of me, of Clara. We will love you until the end of time.
So where are we now? DOIN AIGHT. Baby sleeps fairly well, eats great and is overall a tiny, happy camper. As for me, I am very emosh. Happy. Scared. And in love.
So in love.