Now those of you who have been following my blog know that my pregnancy with V was a little rough. Bleeding, early contractions, PPROM (pre-term premature rupture of membranes for those in the know!) and an extended NICU stay for our first little miracle man definitely made for some interesting stories. His pregnancy wasn’t actually too rough on me though. I had a few small kidney stones, and plenty of anxiety, but mostly V just didn’t deal well with being ‘baked’.
When A and I decided to try for Baby #2 we determined that it really couldn’t be any worse than V’s and we were prepared! We thought we’d maybe have to have some hormone injections and perhaps in an extreme case have a cerclage placed. We were prepared for some late-term bedrest and maybe another short stay in the newly updated NICU. We had this!
God must have heard us planning and had himself a pretty good laugh. He probably thought ‘Easy eh? I’ll show them!!’ What followed was probably the worst summer on record followed by the joyous birth of our second son. They say you can’t have a testimony without a test so let me fill you in. Note that I have another post planned with his actual birth story but this is just the condensed ‘highlight’ (low-light?) reel of pregnancy #2.
Test #1 – Initial Stones
Not even a week after we got the plus sign on the pregnancy test I woke up at 4am, from a dead sleep, literally screaming in pain. I thought for sure I had an ectopic pregnancy and my insides were rupturing into a pile of mush…it hurt that badly. Keep in mind I’m no stranger to kidney stones and this pain made my other experiences look like a stubbed toe. Our first trip to the ER let us know that I had stones in both of my kidneys, but they looked pretty manageable and since the biggest one was only 6mm I would probably pass them on my own. Joy. I was sent home with some T3s and told to sleep it off.
Test #2 – Kidney Infection
About 3 weeks later I was back in the ER with pain AND a kidney infection. The awesome thing about stones in that they tend to horde bacteria in their rough surfaces and if you don’t pass the little bastards they tend to make your kidneys all yucky. Sent home with my first of many rounds of antibiotics and was placed on medical leave from work…at 9 weeks pregnant. Spoiler alert…I never got to go back.
Test #3 – Braxton Hicks/Pre-term Contractions at 15 weeks.
I was sent to the ER again at 15 weeks, this time for early contractions. After spending a good portion of my night freaking out I got to see my OB the next day for the first of many medical interventions.
Back when my family dr first confirmed our 2nd pregnancy they sent off my referral immediately to my High Risk OB from my pregnancy with V. She knew my history and had told me if we ever had another she’d want to see me by 13-14 weeks to make sure we were proactive against anything that could cause another early arrival. Turns out by the time she got my referral at 9 weeks and saw my ER frequent flier miles she had me in for my first appointment at 10 weeks.
Normally High Risk Drs won’t see you until the second trimester due to the risk of miscarriage but Dr. D was taking no chances! She was incredibly upfront with me about what could have cause V to come early and had a game plan in place for Baby #2. In her medical opinion V’s early arrival was most likely the cause of a hormone issue. She thought that my body didn’t do a fabulous job of regulating my progesterone during pregnancy and when the levels dropped low enough it figured pregnancy time was up! For most people, from what I understand, progesterone builds quickly during the first trimester (hello morning sickness!) and maintains a pretty even level once you hit the second trimester onwards until labour. My body seems to drop my progesterone levels once I hit about 15 weeks so I start getting contractions etc which is never a good thing when viability isn’t reached until 24 weeks.
So…after having cervical length checks done (these are super fun…not!) my OB decided that I would need weekly shots of progesterone to keep my body from going into labour early. I was supposed to start at 16 weeks but after our scare at 15, we got going a week early. We had the option of progesterone given by pill (and nope you don’t swallow it) or through intramuscular injection. I chose injection and picked up my first batch of 4 vials. Progesterone is actually suspended in oil so it is incredibly thick and needs to be administered through a large gauge needle given in one of the largest muscles they can find. Your butt cheek. Yup…we’re all glamourous up in here! So from 15 weeks to 35 weeks I had to visit either the hospital or my family dr and have a nurse jam a giant needle into my backside. Luckily the shot itself had pretty minimal side effects, mostly just a giant bruise for a few days, and the benefits far far outweighed any embarrassment or discomfort I might have had.
Test #4 – Hydronephrosis and Nephrostomy Tubes
Nephrostomy tubes have already been given their own special blog post but my experience with them started at 21 weeks when I was again rushed to Triage with unbelievable pain…again. Ultrasound showed that my right kidney was completely blocked by stones, the largest of which measured 1.5 cm. Doctors can’t do much about all that when you’re 5 months pregnant so I had a tube inserted into my back that drained my urine (sexy I know) into a bag for the next 6 months. Sidenote: You know your husband loves you when he will clean your surgical site every 3 days for 6 months and empty the bag for you when it hurts just too damn much to climb out of bed and drag yourself to the bathroom. Did you know your mattress has a lip on the edge that catches medical tubing at just the right angle to bring you to tears? True story…
Test #5 – Infections, PICC line and IV Antibiotics
Getting tired of my list yet? Cause it’s been a year and I’m still over it! After the tube was placed I ended up still having some cramping and thought it might just be those pesky early contractions. Turns out it was from my bladder since I had one heck of an infection. When my OB diagnosed it I figured she’d hand me a script for 14 days worth of pills and I’d be on my way. Turns out what I needed was a 4 day hospital stay to set me up with a permanent PICC line and a portable IV pump of 3x daily antibiotics until delivery. I guess sepsis during pregnancy is a pretty scary possibility and they figured high dose antibiotics for the next 3 or so months would do the trick to keep me (mostly) healthy and out of pre-term labour…yet another risk of infection. The PICC will likely get it’s own post later because it was also it’s own new level of suck. Enjoy taking showers? Dressing yourself? Being able to brush your own hair? Too bad!
Test #6 – VRE Infection
So one of the side ‘benefits’ to making hospital visits your full time job; including letting a team of medical professional getting their hands (literally) on your kidney once a week is that you open yourself up to a whole new world of infection that isn’t actually otherwise available to you. I picked myself up a lovely ‘vancomysin resistent’ infection during one of my stays so A and I had to learn to disconnect my IV pump and hang our very own gravity IV line. We were super high tech about it too…we hung it from a picture hook in our living room for 30 mins over 7 days to clear that sucker up. I guess that’s what we get when we said that after the PICC line and IV pump that things couldn’t possibly get any worse…
Test #7 – Pre-eclampsia
True story – when your kidneys stop functioning properly your chances of developing high blood pressure go up…and not just because it’s stressful! After I gained a whopping 9 lbs in a week, while not changing my diet in the slightest, my doctor was understandably a little concerned. Turns out that my blood pressure, which for my entire adult life, including during my pregnancy with V, has been a textbook 120/80 had shot up to 140/95….they were not impressed. I tried to sell it as ‘white coat’ induced especially since I’d had no ‘classic’ pre-e signs like headaches, spotted vision etc. No dice. They put me on a drug called Labetalol which honestly made me feel a zillion times worse. My parents even hooked me up with my Babcia’s ‘at-home’ blood pressure cuff which I compulsively used throughout the day. Turns out the drug didn’t work out so well for me and after a month of trying to bring it down my doctor finally called uncle and induced me on Sept 12th…5 weeks before my due date…when my bp reached an astonishing 191/115…beauty.
I should also note here that unlike gestational diabetes which, 99% of the time, clears after you deliver, pregnancy induced high blood pressure can take months to go back to normal. For me I took bp meds until Dec…I worried it would never go back to normal!
Test #8 – NICU and Pneumonia
Even after ALL of this drama A decided he wasn’t going to let V be the only high needs baby in this family. He was born making a very odd ‘squeaking/sighing’ noise that almost sounded like a half-hearted cry. Turns out that since he was born just as his lungs were on the point of maturity he’d developed pneumonia and was struggling to push the air out of his lungs. Seriously? After 3 months of in-utero antibiotics? Guess so…
16 days later we finally got to bring our second miracle mister home and did our best to settle into a routine while still dealing with 75% of our previous issues. Luckily I was PICC line free and obviously not pregnant after being discharged but it took me another 2.5 months for surgery on my right kidney and to lose the tube, 3 months pp for my bp to regulate and 4 months pp for the surgery on my left kidney. So much for a quiet mat leave full of snuggles!
To recap: I was pregnant for 8 months, had 25 different procedures, 4 hospital stays, saw 4 different specialists, and was on a first name basis with our community nursing team. In the end however, it was obviously 100 million, bazillion percent worth it to complete our little family. A is a joy. He’s a happy, adventurous, beautiful little baby who adores his big brother and is loved to pieces by all three of us. We’re so glad he’s here but it’s probably a good idea we had no idea what was in store for us when we decided to expand our family.