Saturday, 23 July 2016

Well that didn't quite go to plan...

*Large exhale*


Baby Armistead is here and he's safe.  Master Hugo Sebastian Henry arrived at 12.27pm on 7/7/16 via caesarian section.  None of that was particularly remarkable, except for the fact he was scheduled to arrive on the 25th...

As you've probably already guessed, things went a bit awry in the last weeks of my pregnancy.  Baby was doing quite well, his heart rate remained stable, and the thickening of the ventricles was within normal range for the most part.  We had sighed a huge sigh of relief and I had settled into enjoying the last 4 weeks or so of my pregnancy.

At 34 weeks I noticed that I grew really big, really quickly.  At our scan, Dr Andrew agreed that baby was very big, but as I was having a caesar anyway, no one was super worried.  Xav was a whopping 10 pound 1 oz, and Poppy was a good size for her gestation, so we all just assumed I grow big babies.  No biggy (no pun intended).

By 35 weeks, I was UN-COM- FORT-ABLE to the max.  I felt full term pregnant.  But again, whatevs.  I could put up with it for another 3 1/2 weeks.  Anything to get him here safely. My blood pressure was good, Braxton Hicks were ramping up and there was no sleep to be had for more than an hour or so at a time, but I was up for the challenge.

35+5 weeks, we all went for our 'last' official scan with Dr Andrew.  All looked good, but the small amount of fluid around baby's heart had returned.  The measuring began.  The one thing you don't want to hear from a medical professional: "That can't be right! Wow... What are your dates again?"
Baby Armistead was in fact measuring full term.  At a few days shy of 36 weeks.  Well, he is a super baby after all.

Off we trot to our Obstetric appointment with Dr Lisa, and I think I start to panic. I knew they wouldn't leave him much longer at the size they were estimating, but even I wasn't expecting to hear the words, "We're done.  Let's get him out on Thursday."

As in, in 2 days time, Thursday.

Oh, boy.

Here we go.

Glen goes into an immediate panic, and needed to be talked down a bit. He's generally very easy going, but the imminent arrival of our third child, over three weeks before he was expected to arrive, sent him into a bit of a spin.  Dr Lisa explains that very big babies are just as vulnerable as very small babies.  Placentas don't cope, babies get distressed.  "We've worked so hard to get this far, let's not risk it."

I whole heartedly agreed; though I was possibly persuaded somewhat by how uncomfortable I was, too. The risks to baby were not considered super high.  A possibility of 'wet lungs', or fluid on the lungs which usually rectifies itself quite quickly.  A chance of respiratory distress.  Jaundice. Trouble sucking to begin with.  Maybe difficulties regulating his sugars and his temperature.  All very manageable, but likely a Special Care Nursery stay would be necessary for a few days.

So off we went for Steroid shot 1 of 2 to help prepare baby's lungs for his early arrival. And thus began 48 hours of 'Oh, shit, have we got everything we need for the baby?' If Baby Bunting had a spike in sales on the 6th of July...that may have been me.

I didn't think I'd sleep the night before the caesar but, well, pregnancy.  I was tired, okay?

Somehow I managed to keep dark thoughts at bay for most of the early morning.  We will bring him home, we will bring him home, we will bring him home.  I just kept running that mantra through my mind, whispering it to myself constantly.  By the time we got to the hospital, after dropping Xav off to my sister, the wait was getting unbearable.  Luckily baby decided to be quite active which helped enormously.

Pre op consultation, done.

Anesthetic consult, done.

Meet the Paediatrician, done.

Walk to theatre, done.

Cannula in, spinal in, traditional blood pressure drop and slight vom, done.

Then Glen was there, holding my hand and we get ready to meet our boy.

'Just please cry, baby.'

Our wonderful OB announces he's about to be born.  'Oh my goodness, look at that hair!' she exclaimed and minutes later our sweet boy cried his little lungs out.

The words escaped me before I even thought about it: "He's not dead.  He's not dead." before I sobbed my eyes out because he was here and he was alive and he was safe.  Glen disappeared to cut the cord and talk with the Paediatrician and discover our boy had a full head of bright red hair, before our little man came over for a cuddle with me. We noticed right away he was finding it a bit hard to breathe, so before long he and Glen were whisked away to the Special Care Nursery.

I felt like I was in Recovery for hours and I just wanted to see my baby.  We hadn't settled on a name, we had decided to wait until he was born before deciding, but we hadn't even had time to talk about it before they left.  So I pondered to pass the time.  Sebastian had been the early favourite, but Eli was a late runner which I loved too.  But neither seemed quite right. He was such a big boof of a boy, he needed a strong name.  If only I would see him so I could decide!

Finally, Glen reappeared and came with us as we went up to the ward.  "He was a whopper!  3875g!  8pound 8oz!"  Holy Moly, imagine if he'd been in for another 3 weeks!  Xavier arrived and was typically brilliant and loving and totally gorgeous and cried tears of joy with us that he had a little brother.  Glen took him to meet baby in Special Care and when they returned Glen said 'I think he looks like a Hugo?'.  THis was a massive surprise to me, as I fricken loved the name early on, and despite by very advanced persuasion methods, I couldn't talk Glen into liking it.  So, after waiting for 9 months to see him and decide, we agreed on Hugo Sebastian Henry Armistead basically without me seeing my beautiful boy.

When the night nurse arrived on shift, she found me in a bit of a state because I STILL hadn't seen my baby and I was feeling a bit deja vu-y.  I'd had a baby but the baby wasn't with me.  She very kndly went above and beyond to arrange to have my hospital bed wheeled into the very tiny Special Care space.

And there he was.  Tiny despite being big.  Peaceful despite his panicked arrival.  And well, despite being early.

I held his tiny hand in mine and fell in love with him.

My Hugo.

My rainbow.

My heart.

And now after a roller coaster of a ride, our little Hugo is finally home with us.  For 13 days we learned to manage having a baby in Special Care, but each little hurdle, he conquered.  He got the full assortment of conditions that he could have at 36 weeks, but his lungs got better, his sugars stabilized, the jaundice improved, and eventually he worked out how to feed. Finally we could take our healthy little baby home.

And now we are 5.  Bec, Glen, Xavier, Poppy and Hugo Armistead.

And I would do it all again.

In a heartbeat.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Pause and Breathe

30 weeks pregnant.  For months and months I've waited to be able to reach the point in this pregnancy when bubs could be delivered if something were to go wrong.  Now I'm here, and I have to say 'Thank God for that," 'cause, I tell you now it's been a hard slog over the past few months.

Last time I posted, I may or may not have mentioned I was scared.  Well, F###ing terrified might have been closer to the mark.  If I thought  I was a bit on the nervous side at that point, it was nothing compared to the blind terror we were confronted with at our 22 week cardiac checkup.

We waltzed into the ultrasound clinic in a fairly blaze manner.  We'd been here just a few weeks previous and baby boy 2.0 was looking good.  Heart Healthy, normal rhythm.  Cautiously optimistic, one might say.  Our obstetrician had recommended we get a full fetal cardiac check at 22 weeks, just to be on the safe side, and low and behold if the cardiologist wasn't the same fella who had diagnosed Poppy, and tried so hard to save her life when she was born.  We have faith in Dr Lance; he went above and beyond to help us understand what had happened to cause her death, when we were standing there with an autopsy report and an obstetric care provider who has basically handed it to us and said 'Don't come back.'

Dr Andrew, our ultrasound dude, and Dr Lance began our scan in the most usual of ways; chatting, explaining our history, etc.  Glen and I were a bit surprised that Dr Lance remembered us and Poppy, and even some of the details of her diagnosis.  Then things got whispered quiet.  Glen and I held on to each other for dear life.  'We'll be okay," I reassured, "no matter what."  We knew the whispering was a bad sign.

I peered at the screen, well I tried to, given my already humongous boobs have decided to like double in size.  I examined the little heart on the screen to try to understand what they might be discussing.  This little heart which is the size of a jellybean.  This little heart that has my heart already.  It looked like the usual grey 4 chambered blur that it should, just a bit brighter than normal.  After a little bit more whispering, Dr Lance steps out to wait for us in an office to have a chat.  Dr Andrew, more subdued now, continues to check the rest of our little guy over.  Growing well, placenta good, everything properly formed.  "Just a little something odd about the heart..." he mentions, "Dr Lance is in the back office up the hall."

It's fair to say at this point we were ready for the worst.  Walking along that corridor, I'm surprised there wasn't some sort of Doomsday March playing.  Dr Lance is a super serious bloke, so we weren't surprised when he seemed, well, serious.  He explained that the glowy part of the heart that we'd seen was cause for concern, given our history.  Everything else looked ok, but the left ventricle (the bottom left chamber of the heart for those playing at home) was 'echogenic' and this could indicate that the muscle was thickening.  It could be the first sign of one of the conditions Poppy had.  The worst condition that Poppy had.  The incredibly rare-never seen anymore-almost universally fatal condition that Poppy had.

Either that or it's nothing serious.

Talk about extremes!  On one hand, a potentially fatal disaster befalling our precious cargo.  On the other; nothing much to worry about.

What. The. Hell?

Where was our lovely, normal pregnancy that everyone kept saying we deserved?  The peaceful healing time where we enjoy the fruits of our toil? Fricken gone down the proverbial toilet, is where.  Zipped off the Timbuktu with a Jolly Jumbuck and Elmer the Elephant.

So began our new regime.  Weekly Scans to check our boy's heart rate stayed stable and he didn't develop the other condition Poppy had.  Fortnightly visits to the Obstetrician.  4 weekly checks with Dr Lance.  Second opinions with other fetal cardiologists.  Checks of our hearts and Xav's, to see if it's possibly genetic.  Cardiac Geneticist visits. Telling our story over and over and over, and dealing with the shocked silences and the 'I'm so sorry' again and again.

But like everything else, this became our new normal.  Everything was put on hold while we tried to deal with...whatever it was.  Tried to deal with trying to predict the future with a couple of clues and a magnifying glass.  Totally Nancy Drew.  At 26 weeks, baby was slightly worse, maybe.  At 27 weeks, our second opinion said things looked pretty okay.  At 29 weeks, the time when we found out Poppy was really sick, Dr Andrew was optimistic.  All our checks came back normal.

Glen and I approached our third cardiac scan with a mix of apprehension and hope.  Things have been looking okay.  Baby boy 2.0 is still stable and growing well.  Now we're 31 weeks, if he is not looking okay he will be delivered.  Week by week, day by day, we wait for some sign of anything changing.

Of course, today is that day everyone is running late and we're running early (NEVER happens...) and we have to wait for like 50 minutes for our scan.  I begin calm.  As time goes on, I begin to freak myself out, and I get more and more wound up.  Finally we're called and in we go.  The friendly Doctors arrive and things begin.  There is no whispering this time.  Exclamations of amazement, shocked approval.  Dr Lance steps out and the rest of the checks are done, and baby is still growing well (maybe a little too many cookies on my behalf, he's a week ahead of schedule), placenta is good, fluid is good.  "See you in a few weeks," Dr Andrew reassures.

Glen and I float along the hallway, hoping that we understood what just happened.  Dr Lance greets us with a smile.  If you had met Dr Lance, you'd understand how weird this is. "I can't explain it," he says, "but your baby's heart looks fairly normal now."  He pauses to let this sink in and explains a few more technical things I won't bore you with.  We discuss delivery, and checks after birth.  We make arrangements to see him with baby after he's born.

Slowly, as we pay our million bucks to our friendly doctors, the news settles into my heart.  He might be okay.  Our boy might be able to be in the room with us after he's born instead of being whisked off to NICU.  He might be well enough to play sport like most kids.  He might be born alive.

So there's our roller coaster ride.  10 weeks of crazy.  We're not quite off the hook.  There's still a chance things might go pear shaped, and thankfully no one is taking their eyes off baby.  We ask for your continued good thoughts and prayers because our little miracle baby is even more of a miracle now.  All I'm saying is that if he's born with a cape on, or has issues with Kryptonite, I predicted it.  Super Boy 2.0.

Now the count down to his arrive is a little more sure, a little more accurate.  Hopefully somewhere around 6-7 weeks to go.

But for now, I plan to sit down, relax and enjoy the ride.

A carousel, not a roller coaster.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Ticking Time Bomb

Firstly, let me firmly anchor this post within the "I-am-so-happy-I-am-pregnant-I-didn't-think-I-would-get-this-chance-again-and-I-am-so-grateful" realm.  And I am really, really thankful that we have a chance to bring another baby into the world, for the chance to be a mummy to another little one and for the opportunity to give Xav a brother and Glen another son.  I have honestly gotten to the end of my rope in terms of persistence and then, well, here we are.

But pregnancy after loss is certainly not the joyously blissful journey I had hoped.  There is joy, yes, and there is bliss.  But most of all there is fear.  Crippling fear.  Anxiety like I've not known on a level that I wasn't expecting.

Before this bubba, I had a pretty good handle on my anxiety.  I had learnt to read it, to use positive talk to find a way out.  It took years of grappling with it, of learning from it, of being supported through it to find a path I could walk.  It was uncomfortable, confronting and often painful and scary.  But I found, generally, a way to cope.  I felt like some sort of super hero; Captain Anxiety, ready to take flight (carefully) and save the day (from my own brain).  Bright cape flapping in the wind (Maybe no cape, I HAVE seen the Incredibles and apparently they're a bad idea...)  But you get the general idea.

Then those two pink lines came along.  For a whole week I was so sickeningly positive that I almost made myself sick.  Then I had a bleed and I figured it was all over.  When just minutes before I'd seen my baby for the first time and heard his heartbeat.  But somehow, he stuck in there and kept growing.  But ever since then, I feel like we're on borrowed time.  Like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And it's, quite frankly, frightening.

I know that this anxiety is not limited to me.  When I was pregnant with Xav, and even with Poppy (who came along after 4 m/c herself), I was worried.  All pregnant ladies worry, because we don't know what will happen, we don't know what's happening in that cushy uterus holding our precious cargo.  But this time, I know the worst that could happened.  I know that there is always a chance things might not go to plan.

I know in my head that mostly babies arrive healthy and happy and roughly on time.  I know that generally pregnancies are smooth.  But I also know the flip side, and my heart is having a hard time forgetting that side.

Most days I feel super positive.  Last weekend I got out all the baby things and spend hours going through them, reminiscing about when Xav wore this, or one of my sisters boy wore that.  I even bought baby a new outfit or two.  But I can't bring myself to take the tags off, just in case I need to return them.  "Maybe later, when it's safe," I tell myself.  "Maybe after 20 weeks, or 28 weeks, or 30 weeks..."  Truthfully, I'm not sure this pregnancy will ever feel safe.

I am brave.  I have learnt this about myself.  I am not saying this in a Xena Warrior Princess sort of way.  I am not going to battle Vikings or whatever she does.  But I can cope.  I can get through the worst of things and somehow still stand at the other end.  That strength is hard won, and not to be trifled with.  But somehow it is not quite enough.  I'm scared that I will not bring home this baby.  I am scared that something I do will cause him harm.  I am scared I'll make a wrong choice and he'll pay the price.

Most days I can say, 'We're okay.  Right now, we're okay." We've make it through 16 and a half weeks longer than I thought we would.  But the remaining 21 and a half weeks feels like a really long time.  It feels like holding a time bomb that is programmed for mid July but might be a bit faulty.  And I'm not expert, but faulty time bombs seems like a big problem.

All I can do, and all I can ask for, is hope.  I can hope that despite the past, despite my worry, baby will get here safe and sound.  And I can ask for your hope too, if you have any to spare.  Your hope and support and love has got me through the past 4 years, and I know I have no right to ask it of you again.  But, like, please, y'know?  Pretty please?  I'll pay ya back.

I really am a joyously, blissful, HOPEFUL pregnant mother.

Most days...

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The One We've All Been Waiting For

I don't blog much any more.  I wish I spent more time writing, but doesn't time get away?  It was a tumultuous 2015, a massive learning curve, a year of changes and risk taking and new directions.  I tried really hard to just take things as they came and I got better as I went.  I was proud of myself for becoming more aware of my own thoughts and what I was feeling and I felt a real change in myself because I know myself better than I did.  But enough on that, I just wanted to set the scene a bit about where I am just now.

In August last year we decided to give IVF one last hurrah.  We jumped in feet first and decided that whatever the outcome, this was it.  So I became a full on druggy once again, pumped myself full of meds and of course promptly developed Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome for the second time.  I was expecting it this time, and at least I didn't also need to cope with getting a shitty number of eggs and no embryos this time.  After 5 days we had 6 embryos ready to test to check for abnormalities.  Don't get me wrong, we are in no way worried about raising a child with special needs, but the thought is that my body will not grow the embryos if there are chromosomal issues.  After what felt like forever, my specialist rang with the good news that we had 3 good embryos, frozen and waiting for us.  These will henceforth be known as Ice Ice Babies 1, 2 and 3.

Ice Ice Baby 1 was transferred in early September.  I wrote about my ongoing battle with addiction to Home Pregnancy tests in my last blog, and sadly after posting it that sweet second pink line faded.  The cycle ended and I was dubious about going again.  I think I officially lost hope.  If I couldn't get Ice Ice Baby 1 to stick, knowing he or she was perfectly formed, what was wrong with me?  I accessed some counselling through the IVF clinic and I accepted her advice.  Do one more round and then leave things for a good long while.  Make the decision to not make a decision to finish or not.  Sounded like I could manage that.

In early November we started our final round of IVF for a while.  I think I approached it with a bit of a 'let's just get it over with' attitude, but I figured I'd change it up a little and throw acupuncture into the mix.  I find it super relaxing and it was nice to just have time to relax and focus on getting through the round.

Transfer day snuck up on us, and before I knew it, I had my legs in stirrups and once again I was baring my wares to the lady whose kids we've put through very expensive schools, judging by how much we've paid her over the years.  We chatted amiably throughout what would have to be one of the most awkward situations one can find one's self in.

They showed us our lovely blastocyst (Ice Ice Baby 2) on the screen and then we all prepared for take off.  In it went and off we tootled to have a cuppa and go to acupuncture.  "I feel...different..." I whispered to Glen on our way out.  I felt weirdly alien, and I had a funny inkling this might be THE one.  I dared not hope because I've had A feeling before, but this was the first time I had had THIS feeling.  I put it out of my head and went about my business for a week, until finally testing day was upon us.

I peed on my first test about 3 days before the end of my cycle and of course there was a faint second line.  I figured it was the HCG shot still, so I tried to calm the storm of excitement rising in me.  The next day I tested again, and decided if the line wasn't darker I wouldn't test again.  I weed and left the test on the counter whilst I went to find clothes for the day and figured about 3 minutes had gone past.

I glanced at the test.

I did a double take.

I picked it up and gave it a shake.

Two pink lines.  Darker than yesterday.

I'm freaking pregnant!  Well, I'll be damned.

Armistead Baby number 3 is due to arrive on the 4th of August, 2016.

Lucky we gave it one last shot.