Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One of those days that's a long week

Many people have a lot of expectations about how their babies will be born and, once you're expecting a baby, you start thinking about your preferences for birth. Any doctor, nurse or midwife will tell you, though, that those are just preferences and that you can't expect everything to go exactly according to plan. Nothing hammers that lesson home quite like having almost nothing go according to plan.

Blaise was due February 20 and, until December 17, we had no real reason to expect that ours would be anything other than a typical birth at our local community hospital. I had been totally comfortable with no signs of any problem and Blaise was an active, healthy-seeming fetus. Then our December 17 ultrasound showed that she had some kind of intestinal blockage. We had been told that this put us at risk for premature labor and also that we would have to deliver at a major hospital with a high-risk specialist. We knew she would need surgery shortly after she was born. This was very frightening news to us, but we began the process of adjusting to the new plan.

Starting around December 28, I was feeling more and more uncomfortable and by the 31st, it was bad enough that we went to my doctor to get things checked out. Although I was not quite 33 weeks pregnant, I was measuring at 39 weeks, suggesting that something was wrong. She sent us to Brigham and Women's so we could see a high-risk specialist right away. The specialist ordered another ultrasound and found that the problem with Blaise's bowel was much worse than it had been only 2 weeks before. We were admitted to the hospital for steroid treatments (to help her lungs develop) and for 48 hour observation, but they didn't think it was likely that we would have to induce labor or do a C-section to intervene.

I woke up early on the morning of January 1 feeling more uncomfortable and having small contractions. Then, at about 8:15, my water broke on its own and I was transferred to the Labor and Delivery ward. Based on the strength of the contractions and other signs, we thought we were settling in for a long, normal labor. At about 10, I told Ben to go get some breakfast. Less than 5 minutes later, a startling number of doctors appeared in my room and told me that the baby was in distress and they were taking me for an emergency C-section. As they wheeled me out of the room, I threw my cell phone at the nurse and told her to call Ben and tell him to come back. He made it back in time to be with me when Blaise was born at 10:47 AM. She was yelling her head off, which might be the best sound I have ever heard.

Ben got to hold her very briefly before she was taken to the NICU at the Brigham, where the pediatric surgeon took one look at her belly and decided to take her for surgery immediately. They brought me up to hold her for a few minutes and then Ben went with her to Children's for the surgery. During surgery, they discovered that the intestinal blockage had caused what is called a volvulus, meaning that the intestine twisted on itself and cut off its own blood supply, causing the tissue to die. As a result, Blaise has very little small intestine and a condition known as short bowel syndrome. For now, she will have to receive all of her nutrition through an IV. The surgery was also very hard on her and she had to be resuscitated during the operation. When we were able to see her again, she was on a ventilator and receiving a number of medications. Frankly, things were pretty bleak.

Ben's parents arrived that night and mine came in to town the next morning. By the next morning, she was looking stronger and within a matter of days, she was breathing on her own and off almost all of the medications. As of today, they are no longer using the incubator to help regulate her temperature, as she seems to be doing that on her own. Aside from the problem with her intestines, she is very healthy and has been described by her nurses as "a spitfire" who "has definite opinions." She's proven to us that she's one tough kid and we're very, very proud of her. The problems with her intestines are quite serious and will require a lot of maintenance and treatment. She may never be completely off IV nutrients, but I think all three of us are determined to work with what she has.

I'll post links to photos and videos soon. I just wanted to get the (abbreviated) story up so that everyone has some sense of what's going on. I promise more fun stuff mixed in with the serious stuff. There's a lot of serious stuff, but she's also darn cute and makes us laugh a lot.

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