Monday, February 17, 2014

The Arrival: The Birth Story I Forgot to Post and an Update on Mighty Max

Max is two weeks old today and I can't believe how much has happened in just fourteen days. My husband reminded me today that I never posted my viewpoint of the birth story like I wanted to and since Max is exactly two weeks old, it felt like a good time to do it.

I'll try not to do this.

On Monday, February 3rd, my husband and I arrived at the hospital early in the morning. I was pretty freaked out, not only at the fact that we were about to have a baby and the whole heart transplant process was really about to begin, but I was really nervous about having a C-section (more on that in a minute). We arrived at the hospital and I was checked into the OB triage where they prepped me for surgery. One of the doctors who came to see me turned out to be the confused doctor I talked about in a previous post in December. She examined me and went to leave but she quickly returned and asked if we were expecting to see the perinatologist we'd been seeing for my OB care. I said yes since we had scheduled my C-section specifically to be delivered by her. The doctor then informed me that the perinatologist was on vacation but she would be performing my C-section instead.

Luckily she had two other doctors working with her and the confused doctor turned out to be much more competent in the OR than at the office.

I also had a special bonding moment with my nurse, the anesthesiologist, and one of the other doctors who all turned out to be Broncos fans. As it was the morning after the Superbowl of which we do not speak, we all commiserated together while they got me set up with anesthesia.

I know, Peyton. Me, too.
Once I was set up on the table, they brought Jon into the OR in his bunny suit (and in case anyone is wondering, it took two caps to cover all of his dreads). We quickly discovered a few things about C-sections at this particular hospital:

1. We were under the impression that there would be a screen of some sort put up between my face and the surgery that was going to happen. While they did put one up, it was basically a splash guard that barely covered my face. There was no physical barrier protecting Jon's eyes.

2. There was a mirror on the ceiling that was positioned in a way that I could see EVERYTHING. I didn't want to look but there were a few moments that it was like a car accident: you don't want to look but your eyes are magnetically pulled towards the scene.

3. One of the things I've always valued about my relationship with Jon is the way that we truly understand each other and the way we can see into one another. I'd always thought that this would just be a metaphorical sentiment but like I said--the "screen" barely covered my face and offered no protection for Jon. He didn't want to look (and tried very hard not to) but it was kind of all laid out on the table. It's a new level of intimacy that you kinda hope you never reach with another person.

Once Max was born, we heard the tiniest little squawks and I immediately started crying. The NICU team who had been standing by cleaned him up a little and wrapped him in a blanket before bringing him by my head. The NICU doctor told me that he was okay but he needed some work so they had to take him right away to stabilize him. They brought him close to me so I could have my first physical contact with my son--a kiss on his forehead--before they rushed him to the NICU.

Jon went with Max while the doctors finished my surgery and it felt like it took forever and a day even though at most it was another 45 minutes. Once they had me stitched up, I was taken to a recovery room for two hours while the anesthesia wore off before I could go to the NICU to see Max. That time, coupled with the remainder of my surgery after Max was born, felt like the longest hours of my life, knowing that after carrying him for nine months, our baby was here but he wasn't with me. After making sure Max was settled in the NICU, Jon came and sat with me to keep my company while I waited and told me that Max was okay, he was beautiful, and he had big feet.

After my time in the recovery room ended, a nurse wheeled my bed into the NICU so I could finally see Max. I was completely overwhelmed with so many emotions when I saw him but most of all, I felt so thankful that he was stable and that he was okay.

Our first picture together.

I wasn't able to stay in the NICU for long and I was then taken into my room. Jon bounced back and forth between the NICU and my room and at one point, he told me that although Max was really stable and fine to stay where he was, they wanted to move him over to PCH in order to get him a room in the CV ICU (space was apparently getting limited) and, we later found out, to hurry up and work on getting him on the transplant list. Apparently one of our doctors at PCH texted one of the doctors at the delivery hospital somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen times after Max was born. They had planned on taking Max at 5pm so at around 4pm, I had the nurses load me into a wheelchair and take me into the NICU so I could spend some time with Max before he was transported.

Luckily for me, the transport team was running behind and they ended up not moving him until nearly 8:30pm so I got to spend nearly four hours with him. About halfway through my time with him, it occurred to the nurses that I hadn't come back to my room so they hunted me down to give me pain meds through my IV. In retrospect, it might not have been the best idea to be anywhere but resting in my bed so soon after surgery but I knew this was my last chance to see Max for a couple days and there was no way I was going to miss out on that (I think that's also why the nurses let me stay where I was instead of insisting I get back into bed).

Nurses rock my socks.
When the transport team arrived, they let me stay next to Max while they prepped him for transport. He held my finger the whole time.

Saying goodbye to Max that night was incredibly painful but I knew I had to focus on healing myself in order to be able to be there for him with everything he was facing.

When I found out I was having a C-section, I had read books and gone online to try and research C-sections to try and mentally prep myself and try to figure out what to expect. What I found instead was a lot of C-section shaming where the general sentiment was, "If you have a section, you're basically a failure for not going through labor pains like the rest of us and you're just a victim of the medical industrial complex."

Yeah, I'm looking at you, Ina May.

Max's need for a heart transplant and the fact that he was breech (he was lying sideways and facedown in my belly. I don't know what he thought he was doing) necessitated a C-section but honestly, I think everyone has the right to choose to give birth in whatever way they feel is right for them. And anyone who says that C-sections are easier can suck it. Seriously, that shit is awful. While it's true I couldn't feel anything below my chest during delivery . . .

. . . the aftermath was terrible. I had a not so fun reaction to anesthesia (read: vomit) and everything was super painful (until the sweet, sweet relief of hard drugs kicked in) and even now I'm not supposed to lift anything heavier than 10 lbs for another month.

Jon has to carry all my things.
I was released from the hospital two days after delivery for a couple reasons: 1) I was actually doing really well and 2) I think the doctors and nurses felt sorry for me that I was away from Max. But I trust that they wouldn't have released me if I wasn't doing well enough and I've been doing really well with recovery thus far (the pain meds helped).

The Max Update

The last couple days have gone pretty smoothly for Max. Yesterday he seemed like he felt fine but his heart rate was still up in the 180s. He had a big morning of echos, EKGs, and breathing treatments (plus he was regular baby fussy starting at about 4am) and then he was finally able to fall asleep and rest during the afternoon.

Today was another really good day. His usual Monday morning labs (echo, EKG, x-ray, etc.) showed that his lungs are slowly improving and we're thrilled that he's moving in the right direction. We also met with a physical therapist who showed us some exercises we can do with Max to get stronger mobility in his limbs since post-surgical babies have to be splayed out for a few days and it makes their joints stiff. He responded really well to the exercises which is a good sign that it shouldn't take too much to get him back up to speed.

The best news of all, however, was that at about 3am this morning his heart rate dropped back down into the normal range in the 130s-140s which was a HUGE relief. Max also got one of his chest tubes removed today and he seems much more comfortable. The tube was scheduled to be removed anyway but Max got the process started when he got his foot caught in the tube and partially kicked it out. Our nurse quickly got one of the doctors and they finished taking it out right then and there.

"I make my own medical decisions."

In other exciting news, Jon got to hold him for the first time today!

I also got a chance to hold him again this evening.

I also got to help give him a bath tonight. He seemed a little unsure at times but overall I think he enjoyed it.

"Don't know if like . . ."


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Prayers for Max and all his family.

  2. That is such an awesome story. How proud you should be for such a handsome and soon to be perfectly healthy happy boy <3