Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The journey to Sophia

Ok so I'm going to back, back into time... (sorry the spacing gets wonky at the end, I guess it's just too damn long...)

2005 was a pretty sucky year. My mother in law had endometrial cancer, my dad had breast cancer, I lost a beloved Great Aunt, John lost his Aunt and a great Aunt, my father and I discovered we had the BRCA-2 breast cancer gene, there was Hurricane Katrina, it just sucked.

Then there was October. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was at a wedding and I wanted to drink. Now this would not be shocking if we were talking about a normal human being. But for me to want to drink is an unusual occurrence. People often wonder about the fact that I do not partake in drinking. It is by no means a moral choice, I have nothing against alcohol, I think it's a totally normal part of human behavior. So why don't I drink?

Well when I observe people drinking, they seem happy, in fact if they consume enough, they get downright affectionate. I do not know these feelings. After 1 drink (doesn't matter what it is) I feel a pressure in the center of my face. If I have 2 drinks, I am fairly certain the center of my skull is about to cave in. For anyone unfortunate enough to witness me make it to 3, they usual spend the evening wondering why I suddenly hate them and would like to know why I am being such a bitch.

So for the record, for me to crave alcohol, something is amiss.

In addition to partaking of the open bar, I took a couple of shots during the venetian hour as well. John was shocked. When I got home I wanted beer and wings (I got neither). The next morning I woke up exhausted. John teased me that I was having a hangover. Even though I didn't really drink a lot, for me it was a bender. But Monday when I went to work I was EXHAUSTED! John was like, ok you are either the lightweight of the century, or your sick. And then on my way home from the express bus stop I had a sudden thought, weird cravings, utter exhaustion, am I pregnant? (For those of you wondering, it was a big oops, we hadn't actively been trying hence the drinking.)

So I stopped at CVS got myself a stick and while my husband slept on the couch, I went into the bathroom. I've had two major preggo scares in my life. Once in college and once right before I got married. Both times were spent staring at the bathroom sink yelling COME ON BLUE!!! No Whammies, no Whammies!

Funny how I felt the exact same feeling, until I remembered that I was married now (to the same guy responsible for the other two scares if you're keeping count) and we actually wanted children eventually. And I was like, oh right, this is a good thing. And what do ya know, I got a plus sign. I burst out of the bathroom and John fell off the couch, "What?!!" "We're pregnant!" "Get the fuck out of here!"

We didn't tell anyone, who does? I had a doc apt the following week, we were secretly glowing, it was wonderful. It lasted 5 days. By Saturday I had what would be my first miscarriage. It was termed a chemical pregnancy, meaning it was never confirmed on sonogram. I hate that term, I know what it means to the OB/GYN but to me it was real. I won't bore you with the emotional details, but a first miscarriage is unlike any other. There's no way to prepare for it and there's nothing you can say or do for yourself that can make it easier. You just have to go through it. It sucks, end of story.

My doc was totally a jerk about it. He said "So I heard you had an exciting weekend?" Yeah, no. He was a goner. I decided then and there to get a new doc. So thanks to our cousin Michelle, I found doctor Reilly (turns out there's a lot of us who found our way to him) and I went thru my second pregnancy with him. That one lasted a little longer. I was technically pregnant for 7 weeks, but for me it was about a month. We had a sonogram with a heartbeat, we had measurements, there was nothing chemical about this pregnancy.

I was at a baby shower for our best friend and I kept secretly escaping to the bathroom to preggo check as I call it (it's an obsessive thing miscarriage sufferers go thru, it's very OCD and a totally unhealthy state of being). I had just told my parents in the parking lot on the way to the baby shower and I was at a baby shower, I figured the stage for perfect irony was set. And it did not disappoint. I made it home pregnant, but when I got home everything went to hell. Dr. Reilly sent me to the ER. They found the heartbeat, the embryo was still in the wall, but I was having symptoms, the kinds pregnant women shouldn't have.

No one could explain what was happening but I was sent home with a "still pregnant" seal of a approval and strict instructions to not be on my feet. Over the next few days things just got worse. Dr. Reilly said he'd never seen anything like it, the specialist's office they sent me to could not explain my symptoms, but they did something important. They logged the sonogram with the perfect embryo placement and recorded the perfect heartbeat at 3pm that Monday and put it in the hospital computer. The next day it was finally over. There was nothing on sonogram, the symptoms I was experiencing were not odd, they were perfect miscarriage symptoms, what was odd was the embryo was holding on for dear life in spite of it all. The ob/gyn on duty in the ER that Tues. afternoon said my body worked so hard to get rid of it, that if he didn't have that previous day's sono on record he would never have believed I was pregnant 24 hours prior.

And yet somehow that one was easier to take emotionally. I knew what to expect. And unlike my old doctor, Dr. Reilly dropped everything and made me his first priority. That's why I stick with him despite the fact that his office is so insane I once watched 13 Going On 30, not once, but twice in a row, waiting to see him. TWICE!

Dr. Reilly decided to launch an investigation. This was not by chance, my body actively worked against a pregnancy and we were going to find out why. Vials of blood were taken. Not a handful, not a dozen. SCORES. I wish I exaggerating, but I'm not. I would go to Quest with papers asking for 26 vials at a time. To which Quest would say, are they testing you or blood letting you? Only once did they actually attempt to take all 20+ in one go. It should come at no surprise that that is the first time I ever had a vasal vagal syncope episode. There's just something about draining your body of blood that your heart objects to.

After a very long time, we had our answer. I have a prenatal blood clotting disorder. They are a fairly new discovery, apparently the UK has been all over them in their pursuit to understand miscarriage. There are several kinds and some are way worse than others. Mine came in a pair, which meant I was at risk for the entire length of the pregnancy. So we made a decision with Dr. Reilly, we would go to Brooklyn and meet with a perinatal specialist named Dr. Kofinas, he would guide me through the disorder and Dr. Reilly would deliver.

Despite the insurance nightmare that followed Sophia's birth, that we had to elevate all the way to NYS Medical Review Board (who ruled against us, bastards), it was the best decision we ever made. Dr. Kofinas was a character, he was lovely, overconfident and convinced that I was hiding my true Greek Heritage. I told him I'd be any nationality he wanted me to be as long as he got me to full term. He told me I have a 70% chance of losing every pregnancy without medical help, but not to worry, he would get me there.

We were pregnant with Sophia in like a nanosecond and my job from that day forward was to take more medicine that should be required for a queasy preggo woman to ingest and to inject myself with a blood thinner called lovenox every single morning into my belly (which would eventually turn purple). Now let me explain, my blood clots in an effort to A) keep an embryo from implanting and B) clots in the placenta during the entire pregnancy.

To understand how devastating this disorder is you have to understand the importance of the placenta. It exists solely to keep the fetus alive. The mother's blood travels through it dropping off very important things the fetus needs, the most important of which is oxygen. The baby's blood runs thru it and picks up that oxygen. That's how fetuses breathe. My blood clots leaving little or no oxygen at all, so if I do not thin my blood enough I would literally have suffocated my daughter to death. So when people would ask me obnoxious questions like, "Isn't all the medicine your taking hurting your baby?" It would take every ounce of self control to not lunge across the table, dig my fingers into their flesh and say, "no all of this medicine is keeping my daughter alive."

I clotted from day one, you could see the dark spots on the sonogram, which meant my daughter was about to be the most sonogramed baby in history. I got 4D sonograms every 2 weeks. When you see 4D of babies at 34 weeks, it's a beautiful thing. 4D at 14 weeks is just plain creepy. I have a sonogram of Sophia doing an amazing impression of Gollum, it's not pretty. You say to yourself, omg is that what happens when I procreate? Is she supposed to look like that, cause that ain't human.

At one point part of my placenta started dying, that was pretty scary. It was too early to feel her so I couldn't do kick counts. All I could do was hope that at the next sono she was still alive in there. Fortunately the placenta death plateaued and most of it was healthy and Sophia started to really do well. Everything for her was going great.

I on the other hand started having major iron deficiency. My blood was so thin I couldn't keep my iron up no matter how many prescriptions, steaks and bowls of total they pumped me with. It was a problem to the very end. But then Sophia decided to throw us a curve ball and get herself tangled in her cord. Fortunately, the blood thinner kept that from being a problem too, but it meant a schedule c-section and I had to stop going to work. Which was the one thing keeping me sane (well that plus all my friends who had to live thru every agonizing detail of this marathon pregnancy).

Then two weeks before delivery Dr. Kofinas' assistant, Dr. Nyuen said, "Jaim', you need to get someone to donate blood for you. You're iron is so low, you're going to need a blood transfusion at the section". Well I'm glad we've decided not to freak out the high risk pregnant lady. John, as per usual, hit the phones. A general call for blood donors began, and I can't tell you how many of our family members were rejected. It was kinda funny. John couldn't cause there's some rule about husbands donating to fertile wives, my dad had chemo, Adam has MS, my Aunt's blood pressure was too high, everyone in John's family thought they were my type and then realized they weren't, it was comical.

And then there was Thomas. Now if you don't know John's cousin Thomas, he is the type of person that the gods make from scratch, take a little extra time on and then send them to Earth and say "this person will come to the aid of anyone in need and will be a friend to all". He is a special breed and he wears designer clothes when he shows up to paint your house, allegedly...

He donated blood for me and it was banked in my name. Turns out Thomas has perfect blood. There's actually such a thing. The nurses were in awe of it, they talked to us about it at great length while I waited for the OR to open up so I could have my section. I was so entranced by the story of his perfect blood I decided I wanted it regardless of whether I needed it or not. But the nurses told me that if I didn't need it, it would go directly to the NICU. So I decided then and there I would will myself not to need it and let it go to a little one to get them started on a new life. For the record, I didn't need it.
So now as I'm waiting for the OR to open up, my veins aren't cooperating and the nurse blows up my hand so badly I am bleeding all over the floor. Again, so glad we decided that we were going to keep me calm. Then the OR finally opens up, hours after I was scheduled and I get wheeled in to my first OR ever.
They decide that for the spinal block I could not have a stitch of clothing on, so here I am at my fattest, buck ass naked on a table waiting to have a giant needle inserted into my spine. Now I'm sure if I was in labor, dying to tear my husband's face off for putting me in such a way, this might have been an appealing venture. But Sophia wasn't so much as hiccuping, I just bled all over the floor back in the other room and I am a giant naked whale. I felt a little vulnerable plus, they seemed to have kidnapped my husband, I had no idea where they stashed him.
So the anesthesiologist, who I actually really adored, later... Says, ok I have to push really hard so we need to get someone to lean against you. And who do they get to do it. This adorable 4'11" pixie, who turned out to be the doctor assisting Dr. Reilly. Now I suppose pixie's can be doctors too, but pitting her against a giant naked woman twice her size, seemed like a poor use of her skills. So I looked back at the anesthesiologist and said, "you're joking right, you push hard enough and Tinkerbell here is gonna die." And then Tinkerbell laughed and I decided I would love her forever. So we made an agreement, she would bear hug my naked ass and using every ounce of pixie dust she had and I'd try my darnedest not to kill her. And it worked. He shoved that needle in, (icky feeling but it only lasts like a second). And then the warm lovely feeling of warm blankets covers your legs.
Then John was released from captivity and the surgery began. There is nothing magical about a c-section. 20 minutes of cutting, 5 minutes of retching and at some point a baby is extracted. I was so nauseas it actually took me a minute to figure out Sophia was born. And then I heard, Oh she just pooped on you. I was like, please clean that up before you sew me back together pretty please. But that pretty much sums Sophia up, she was pissed, so she let me know it.
Once you get your couple of minutes with your new little one, they whisk them away with their father and the sewing your insides back together begins. It takes quite a while to get it all lined up again, plus I had the added benefit of being pooped on, and your left alone on the table with nothing but your thoughts. Which was plenty of time for me to decide this was all a big misunderstanding. I mean really, me a mother come on. The 9 months was fun but, let's be real. I'm way too stupid to be someone's mother. I then went through all the people in my life who I felt should have known better than to let me do this. I decided the person most responsible was my friend Jessica. She resents this, but the way I look at it, it's a high honor. I decided on that table she is the smartest person I know and therefore should have stepped in for the good of humanity. We have chosen to agree to disagree on this.
Then in recovery I decided I needed to scratch my face off. For which the nurses decided benadryl was the answer. But benedryl puts me in a coma, plus I had already decided I was too incompetent to be a mother, so hiding out in recovery seemed like the place to be. But unbeknownst to me, I lingered there a little too long and concern was growing. But I really did want to scratch my face off, it was really bad.
Once I was in my room, I had played enough mental memories of the Maury Povich Show to decide that Sophia could do worse, so I decided to accept our respective fates. I would be her mother and we'd both find a way to deal.
Bringing her into this world was my greatest adventure. The fact that I had to be monitored for 3 months later for deadly blood clots was worth it. I would have done it 10 times over, with 50 injections a day if need be. To know I kept her alive inside of me despite all those odds and got her to 39 weeks, it's my greatest achievement.
And the fact that she's spent the better part of two 1/2 years refusing to go to sleep, well I think that's just the universe making sure we squeeze in as much time together as possible.


  1. I thought i was the only one that thought C-sections were a big ordeal. I'm glad I'm not alone, and neither are you. But the package at the end is the best thing in the world. You enjoy every moment with Sophia, she sounds just like my Mai, no sleep will ever get in her way of being with you!

  2. I am proud to know someone with "perfect" blood. Yet another reason why Tom Fone is one of the top 10 coolest people I've ever met.

  3. Vicki - I just felt so weird when everyone left the room and they were sewing me up, that felt like forever!

    dautrnumbr4 - Tom is the best!