Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Birth of Penelope Joy - our $100,000 girl.

Our pregnancy was remarkably normal. (A special blessing after having an early miscarriage of our previous/first pregnancy) We had no complications, the baby was developing as expected, I had low/normal blood pressure and reasonable weight gain (28lbs in the final count). So imagine our surprise to find ourselves admitted to the hospital 10 days before Penelope Joy was scheduled to arrive!

Curby kept saying that Penny would be born on 3/26 - a full week before she was due. I argued that first babies are seldom born early and that he was going to be disappointed. But 3/26 was the two-year anniversary of our first date and Curby remained adamant that he had a "weird feeling" that she'd be delivered that day.

About a week and a half before Penny was due, Curby was working late. He had rescheduled his once-monthly late night at work to be on 3/22, so that he didn't have to work late on Good Friday - which was the following week. I had done some work from home that day and was planning to spend the evening watching TLC and HGTV. My agenda was mostly to do dishes, clean the kitchen and finish folding the laundry. 

As I was sitting on the couch, I got a warm flush feeling across the left side of my face and down my left arm. Suddenly my left arm was tingling all the way down to my hand (like a pinched nerve), my hand swelled up, and then my hand got very stiff and slow. I thought maybe I had just pinched something - even though I hadn't moved at all - and so I got an ice pack and tried to ice it to make it better. I walked around the house a couple minutes, but though the tingling had subsided, my hand was now like deadweight. I could lift my arm and bend my elbow, but couldn't really control my fingers or hand. After texting with Curby and calling the Nurseline (who suggested I call 911), we decided Curby would come home and take me to the emergency room.

We had already put our hospital bag in the trunk and the car seat was installed in the car, just in case, but I didn't really think we were going to be admitted to the hospital, so we didn't take anything else (none of the extra stuff we had for labor/delivery - like my ipod or stuff to entertain us while we hung out in the hospital - not my glasses or toothbrush...). I was wearing a skirt, for crying out loud, and thankfully had taken a sweater at least, Curby didn't even have that!

We had to go to the hospital in Santa Monica, instead of the one we were planning to deliver at - in Westwood - because traffic was so bad on the route to Westwood. I was worried, because I didn't want to get stuck in Santa Monica - our doctor and her practice deliver in Westwood. But Curby was adamant that getting me to the emergency room as fast as possible was the priority. He had looked up my symptoms and told me that they seemed like stroke symptoms - I still thought it was something less worrisome, since I felt fine and could walk and talk (though my left hand was now completely useless).

After doing triage, and waiting for a while, they took us back into the ER and began a series of tests. They sent me for an MRI - that lasted almost an hour (on my back, pregnant, back going out - so uncomfortable) and then back to the ER. By now it was almost midnight, so we contacted a friend to go let the dog out for us. They sent someone down to monitor the baby, and the ER doctor came in to tell us that the MRI did indeed show that I had had a stroke. He wanted us to stay for a few more tests, and at one point the nurse suggested that I was unlikely to be discharged until after we delivered the baby. All of this was happening in the middle of the night, I sent Curby home to get a few things and check on the dog around 2am. When he got back, we tried to sleep a bit, but mostly just ended up talking.

Sometime after that, they came and told us they were going to transfer us to the hospital in Westwood. So I had my first ambulance ride ever, on Saturday morning the 23rd. We arrived at L&D and were greeted by the greatest nurses and put into a triage room. I was hooked up to cardio and fetal monitors as well as an IV and thrombosis leg things ("massagers"). Over the next three days, we had every test I could imagine, from ultrasounds of my heart and brain, to neuro checks every 4 hours, and regular meetings with a variety of physicians from the OB, Neuro, and Cardio teams. Curby slept in the triage room with me, after going home to get more of our hospital supplies, and getting the dog to our sitter. 

In the ambulance... Curby followed behind us in the car.
The next three days were a series of ups and downs. Ups: We had a number of friends come to visit us, which was great for my spirits, and we had a GREAT team of nurses. Downs: The anesthesia team said that we would not be able to have an epidural/spinal no matter how we delivered. So if we ended up having a c-section I'd have to have general anasthesia, and if we had a vaginal deliver, we'd only be able to have narcotic medication. I was discouraged because I didn't want to be under if I had a c-section. Thankfully, the doctors later determined that they could administer a spinal safely, so I wouldn't have to have general anesthesia.

Curby trying to get some rest in the hospital (on his tiny fold out chair/bed)
Then the other doctors kept saying I'd need a bunch of tests before they could decide what to do about the baby and there was some talk that we'd get discharged and return to have the baby, but that was short-lived. Finally, they determined that it was safer for me to have a c-section instead of a vaginal delivery, but the question was when. The doctors at our hospital prefer not to deliver before 39 weeks if possible, and that meant that anytime after the following Tuesday was fair game.

Finally, The attending OB came to my room on Monday evening (after 3+ days in hospital) and said, "Well, they've determined that any other tests can wait until after you deliver. So since you are 39 weeks tomorrow... we're going to deliver your baby tomorrow!" We were thrilled - and not just because Curby had been proven right... little Penny was going to be born on 3/26 after all - but because we were willing to endure another day in the hospital, of fasting and waiting, if at the end we'd have our little baby!

The next day, they told us that we were the 4th section scheduled, of 4 - and that although we were scheduled at 2pm, not to count on it happening right then. But they assured us that they were going to deliver the baby that day no matter what. Our good friend, who had agreed to be a birth coach with us, came up and spent the afternoon talking and praying with us. It was a sweet, sweet time and we were so blessed to have her gentle spirit with us. At around 3pm the nurses said they were going to start prepping for our surgery, and by 4pm we were dressed and I was walking down into the OR. I used my breathing techniques to help get through my nervousness at not having Curby there yet, and during the epidural and we got started. I had not had enough fluids pushed before hand, so that was of some concern but they moved forward with the procedure.

Our friend, Kathy, served as our birth coach and prayer  warrior before and during our labor.
Before long, I was numb and Curby had come in in his scrubs to sit by me. Our OBGYN had arranged her schedule so that she could be the attending in the surgery - which was great! The Anesthesiologist kept us apprised of what was happening on the other side of the curtain, and Curby filmed me during the procedure. Eventually I felt a lot of pressure and there was some chaos on the side - my doctor was asking for a step and to lower the table (it was as low as it would go) and then I felt a huge pressure on my belly and heard the doctor say she had gotten the baby out. She said that the baby's big head was really wedged in there and that she wasn't sure if the baby would have even been able to be  delivered vaginally had we gone any closer to our due date. In fact, the Resident physician (who our doctor was teaching through the procedure), couldn't pull the baby out and our doctor had to step in.

Curby went over to the baby and watched as they got her cleaned up and did her APGAR, etc. It was the longest 5 minutes of my life as I waited for them to bring the baby over to me. I couldn't hear her cry and was getting nervous about all of it when finally she cried and everyone cheered and then soon after that they brought her over so I could meet her and we could be together for a few minutes. Penelope Joy was born at 4:55pm on March 26th, weighing in at 8lbs, 6oz, 19.5" long (with a 14" head!)

I started feeling some sensation so they gave me a narcotic to dull the pain, but it made me nauseated. Then they got me all stitched up and put the baby in my arms and wheeled me into recovery. I had lost more blood than they wanted and hadn't had enough fluids during the surgery, so my body temp was too low. But because of the nausea, I felt sick and hot and did not want them to keep layering on warm blankets. I just wanted to be with my little baby. They tried to put in a new IV (the existing one had gone bad) and I was too dehydrated, so 3 failed tries later (by the nurse who is GOOD at IVs), they finally had to put it in the back of my hand.

New Dad in the Recovery Area
After about 3 hours, we were moved into a post-partum room. There was some additional drama (we didn't get settled there for another 2 hours because they didn't have a cardio monitor for me) but in the end, we were there with our little girl and able to have some skin time and just get to revel in how amazing it all was and how amazing she is. 

Finally getting to cuddle with my little girl.
We were discharged 3 days later - making it 6 full days in the hospital. We recently saw some of the insurance claims for the whole experience and the price billed to insurance (NOT to us!) is over $100,000, so we're calling little Penny our Hundred Grand Girl and praising God that we have a healthy baby... and insurance with an out-of-pocket maximum.


Candice said...

Love seeing God's provision in this story and so thankful that Penelope is a healthy girl. What a crazy start for you as a mom- so many days in the hospital full of tests and tubes and doctors... whew!!

The ALF family said...

Beautiful Story Tiff! So glad Penny is healthy and happy with her wonderful Mama and Daddy! ~TIff Alf

Kristen said...

Tiffani! I have to know: Are YOU okay now?
Despite all of the trauma, I think it was very planned to have your little girl on that special day. Thank you for sharing the story.