Saturday, May 4, 2013
Meet Cora, born weighing 2 lbs, 7 oz

My story begins on April 25, 2012. I was 30 weeks pregnant and going to a regular doctors appointment, I had just switched over to going twice a month. Aside from my feet being a little swollen and my fingers being numb, I was feeling pretty good and was excited about signing up for a few classes (childbirth, breastfeeding) to take in the next couple of weeks. 

My husband was working and this was going to be my first time going to an appointment without him, but he got off early at the last minute. Everything was going fine until the nurse took my blood pressure. It was 148/80. My blood pressure had been perfect my whole pregnancy, and was actually usually low. They tried my other arm and it was still high, so she left to go get the doctor.

My doctor comes in and starts asking if I've had any headaches and says he wants me to go over to the hospital for some monitoring and blood work. Then the nurse comes back and says there was +4 protein in my urine and the doctor warns me that I may be spending a few days in the hospital. 

I've never been in a hospital so this kind of scared me, and I was worried about my job and my dogs at home, so I'm sure I wasn't helping my blood pressure. When we arrived and they tested it again it was something crazy like 180/110. I started trying to relax but it only went down to around 160/100 and it stayed there for a few hours. 

While still in the triage area, they did an ultrasound. I noticed when they would measure the length of the baby's bones and size, it would list it as weeks... And everything kept coming up as 27 weeks. The nurse said everything looked good, but then looked at my chart and asked how far along I was. When I said 30 weeks she said the baby was small and that she needed to get a clear picture of the umbilical cord. I had no idea what any of this meant but this was when we finally called my family and my job to let them know something was going on.

After the ultrasound I had an IV placed in my arm and they started me on magnesium sulfate. I was finally put into a room and started a 24 hour urine collection. My mom had just arrived with some of my stuff when the doctor came in and dropped the bombshell.

He said that he would have to see my blood and urine work first but that he could pretty much guarantee I had severe preeclampsia. The umbilical cord had been affected and the baby was IUGR. I would not be leaving the hospital until she was born, and they wanted me to make it to 32 weeks. 

I was completely stunned by this. I think mostly because I still felt perfectly fine. The magnesium started kicking in at this point, and that stuff is awful. I spent the next week on it, feeling like I was burning from the inside out. I couldn't really concentrate on anything, even when people came to visit I couldn't completely follow a conversation. All of my test results came back and sure enough I had preeclampsia. A nurse from the NICU came to talk about what I could expect. As everyone reading this has probably heard, she told me girls do better. She also told me that preeclampsia babies also usually do better. I thought that was really interesting, she said that it was almost like your body knew something was wrong in the beginning and it helped develop the baby faster. She explained that the baby would likely need some kind of breathing assistance and would be in the NICU until around her due date.

Hanging out in NICU

Every morning I would have an ultrasound. They looked at the poor blood flow in the cord, they measured the baby's movements, and they watched for her to practice breathing. I received both steroid shots. The baby was moving less and less, but a couple days after being there they did see her "breathing" in the amniotic fluid. 

Instead of making it to 32 weeks I made it five days. On Sunday night I started having a weird pain in my side/stomach. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst headache I have ever had. When the nurse came in for my nightly 3:00 am blood draw, I told her about the pain and she brought me some medicine. I lay there for hours feeling so sick, I could tell something was going wrong. 

Around 7:00 my new nurse poked her head in and told me not to order breakfast or eat anything. That's all she said, but I knew. I called my husband and my family and told them it was c-section time. The nurses came in and said that my bloodwork had shown that I was developing HELLP syndrome, and at that point the baby has to be delivered. 

My husband got there just in time and they started the c-section. The epidural did not feel at all like I expected. The feeling of them digging around for the baby felt a lot worse than I expected, but maybe that's just because I was imagining it and it creeped me out!

Then at 9:09 am on April 30, 2012 I heard the squeakiest little cry ever. My so far unnamed daughter was 2 lbs 7 oz and 15 inches long. My husband went to be with her and told me that she looked tiny but good. On their way out they let me give her a kiss and all I saw was this teeny little wrinkled gray face. I was brought into recovery and my husband came to update me and he had a picture! She was on CPAP for just 30 minutes or so before being switched to a nasal cannula. She was absolutely the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and I spent the hours in recovery staring at her picture on my husband's phone. 

Before taking me to my new room we made a stop in the NICU so I could see her, and it shocked me. When wheeling my bed up to her isolette I seriously thought they had the wrong baby. There is no way to even imagine seeing a baby that small in person, only people who have been in the crazy world of the NICU can get it. The nurses assured me that she was doing great, but this is when the guilty feeling started creeping in. One I'd feel again and again with every heel prick and IV insertion and NG tube placement. 

The next morning they had me up and walking and I was able to go down and hold her for the first time. The next day she was able to come off the cannula, and I got to do kangaroo care with her, which was wonderful. She started having some digestion issues and it took a while to get her past taking more than 3 cc's of breast milk every three hours. Before every feeding, the nurse would suck out contents of her stomach and the milk would still be there. They said it was probably an effect of the magnesium I was on, and after a few days she finally stared digesting better. It took her about two weeks to get back to her birth weight and around the same time they were able to take out her PICC line they'd put in after she constantly yanked IV's out of her arms, feet, and even the top of her head!

Finally when she was two days old we named her. We went in to the hospital having no name ideas that we both liked at all, and then one night heard the name Cora on the TV. I mentioned I liked it and was shocked when my husband did too! I felt like it was too rushed so I wouldn't completely commit to it. But after a few days she definitely seemed like a Cora and so she finally had a name!

Because of the HELLP it took awhile for my platelet levels to return to normal. I had been in the hospital for about a week now and instead of feeling desperate to leave, I started to dread it. When I was discharged a few days later, it was one of the saddest days of my life. They wheeled me down to the curb to wait for my husband and the car and I tried not to look at the women in the wheelchairs beside me, holding their babies. I held a container of breast milk and this little blanket I was carrying around to leave with Cora with my scent on it. My husband picked me and all of my stuff up, we re-parked, and went back up to the NICU for awhile. Finally leaving was devastating.

But soon we got into a routine. Cora slowly gained weight and after a few weeks we started breastfeeding. She did great at it right from the beginning. They would weigh her before and after and once she got the hang of it she'd consistently take in way more cc's than she was taking by bottle. Around 4 weeks old they tried out an open air crib but she only made it about two hours before she was too cold. I went in a week later, excited to try again, and found everything in her room covered. There was a caution sign that said that a gown and gloves must be worn before entering. A nurse came running over and explained that Cora had tested positive for MRSA. The only thing I knew about MRSA was that it was hard to treat and that people died from it. 

The nurse quickly made sure I knew that this was really no big deal. She didn't "have" MRSA, her nose was colonized with it. It's very common in a hospital and she probably got it from one of the nurses or doctors. I could still breast feed and hold her skin to skin, but I'd have to wear gloves. If it wasn't hard enough changing her little diapers sideways through portholes avoiding wires with numb fingertips (from pregnancy caused carpal tunnel), adding gloves just made it that more fun! The nurse also gave me the good news that she was going to go ahead and remove the NG tube because of how good Cora had been with eating, and literally as she was saying this Cora yanked out her own tube (for the millionth time)!

That night we tried the open crib again and it worked. I went in the following morning as Cora's doctor was looking at her and heard the magic words, "Go ahead and bring the carseat in..." She passed her carseat test within the next few days and on June 11th I got a call in the morning saying she was ready to go! She was exactly six weeks old. 

The car ride to get her was so exciting, but it took hours to get her out. There was multiple papers to sign and we set up follow up appointments for eye exams and Synagis. Then the nurse just kind of said, "Okay, you can go ahead and take her leads off..." We peeled them off, and out we walked. 

I am writing this on April 25th, 2013. Exactly a year after that fateful doctor appointment. Cora is a few days away from being one, and doing great. Aside from being small for her actual age, she has no side effects from being born nine weeks early. I, on the other hand, have never felt the same. I feel like I came out of the hospital a different person, but not necessarily in a bad way.  Cora is the best thing that ever happened to me and I wouldn't change anything about her story even if I could!

Cora, one year.

Precious and priceless so lovable too, the world’s sweetest littlest miracle is, a baby like you.

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