Thursday, March 26, 2009

:: Liam's Birth Story ::

This is my first post on my new blog, and truthfully I've been planning it in my head for a long time now. I've waffled on the idea of doing a "parenting" or "achondroplasia" blog for awhile, but recently I've found and read a lot of really inspiring blogs which have this subject matter at their heart, and I've decided to take the plunge. I think this will be a good way to make my interior thoughts and emotions clearer; and if this blog can help anyone in any way, then it will be worth it. Plus, I love writing and I'm a pretty fast typist. ;)

Liam is now almost 17 months old, and he is funny, silly, emotional and social, but he also likes to play by himself. He is fortunate in that he doesn't have to go to daycare but gets to come to work with me every day. We're there for four hours a day and he has his daily nap there in the back room on the couch. But you'll hear more about our daily life in future posts.

I've decided to start out this blog with Liam's Birth Story as I wrote it, which was about a month after he was born. I just read it and it definitely brings back some very strong emotions. I think that Spencer and I are still dealing with how his birth and his diagnosis has affected us. After a nearly perfect pregnancy Liam's birth was honestly not a happy ending. We were confused for a long time. Fortunately for us our family was never confused; they were ecstatic over the new addition to the family! Our mothers' instant love for Liam, as well as my cousin Jillian's and our midwife Deborah's love and adoration of Liam really helped me get through the first few days of shock and confusion over his birth and diagnosis.

But I'll get on with it, and post his Birth Story here. I also kept a week-by-week journal during my pregancy, and posted it on Storknet. You can read all thirty-three entries of my Pregnancy Journal here, if you're interested. And now for the story of William Sparrow's entry into this world:

:: Liam's Birth Story ::

So early on the morning of Friday the 2nd of November (when I was nine days overdue) I took two doses of castor oil. It didn't give me any contractions, just really harsh diarrhea. And it made me feel icky, so I had no appetite and didn't eat anything for breakfast except yogurt. I was hoping it would put me into labour, because the baby's head was nice and low, and my cervix was ripe and a little bit dilated, I just hadn't had any serious contractions yet. (Just Braxton Hicks, and a few random 'real' contractions here and there.) I was really looking forward to a natural home birth, to welcome our baby into the world in our own home surrounded by love and midwives.

We had gone to the hospital on Thursday for a non-stress test, where they put two monitors on your belly, one to monitor baby's heartbeat, and the other to monitor any contractions that might be going on. It was great, the baby was doing well, doing everything they want a fetus to do, and I was having a few little contractions.

So on Friday we had to go back to the hospital, because Saturday would have been my date to have the routine 10-days-overdue ultrasound. Deborah (our midwife) decided to book it for Friday instead of Monday, thankfully. The technician did the ultrasound for about half an hour, and the baby didn't really kick me too much during the test, although it had been moving around in the waiting room and Jillian and I could see it under my shirt. He asked me if I had had any leaking of amniotic fluid lately. (I hadn't.)

After we had done the test, he said that he hadn't detected any movement of the fetus at all, so he was just going to hang out and 'watch' with the ultrasound wand for awhile to see if the baby would move. Well, he didn't see it move. He said he was going to go consult with another technician about the results.

After I got cleaned up and waited around in the testing room for awhile, he came back and told me that he'd called Deborah about the test results, and that I should go to the waiting room and wait for him. He told Jillian and Spencer and I that he hadn't detected any movement at all in the 45 minutes he did the test, so he wanted us to go upstairs to maternity for another non-stress test.

So I had to be admitted, and we went upstairs to the same room we'd been in the day before, for another non-stress test. I still felt horrible and had diarrhea from taking the castor oil, and I also hadn't eaten very much. While I was all strapped up for the test, the nurses told me to call Deborah on her cell phone, and she said that she was on her way to explain the results of the test to us.

Basically the ultrasound gives the fetus' health a score out of 8, and our baby got 0. Deborah had never had a fetus score 0, and neither had Dr. H, the OB/GYN on staff that day. One of the scores (all out of 2) was for muscle tone, one was for movement, one was for how much amniotic fluid was left inside, and one was for fetal lung movements. She said the fetal lung movements wasn't a big deal, that babies routinely scored 0 on that because sometimes they go for 45 minutes without any. But she was worried that there was no amniotic fluid left, because the umbilical cord can get compressed and not work so well, and if it gets wrapped around the baby, it likely won't become unwrapped. She also said that the baby's femur measured short for its age; it was the average size of a 31 week-old fetus, not 41 weeks. She said that short long bones are associated with Down's Syndrome, among other things.

The mood now was really somber and serious, which was weird because my whole pregnancy had been so smooth-sailing and healthy. The non-stress test they were doing turned out okay, but not great. The baby was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord, but it was definitely in a compromised situation.

Liam drunk on milkDeborah consulted with Dr. H (ob/gyn), who also had to come in from home on-call. He examined me, and I was definitely ready to go into labour, just no contractions yet. He said that he was willing to let me be induced to try for a vaginal delivery, as he knew that our birth plan had focused on natural home birth. Also, if I ended up with a C-section, I could never have a home birth again, but could have VBAC in the hospital. They would monitor the baby the whole time, and at the first sign of distress would prep me for a C-section.

He also said that if I wanted, I could go straight to a C-section right now, without even going into labour. I thought about it, and said I'd like to try for a vaginal delivery, and he said okay, he'd support me in that, and Deborah too. He just had to consult with the pediatrician.

There isn't a pediatrician on the weekends at St. Joe's, so they called the on-call pediatrician, Dr. S. He definitely didn't want me to try for a vaginal delivery, considering the ultrasound results. He thought it would be too stressful for the baby, who was already in a compromised position.

So now our options were basically: to go downstairs for a C-section right away, or drive to Nanaimo for a second opinion. It wasn’t a very hard decision for me, I really wasn’t into driving for an hour, and it was likely that in Nanaimo whoever was on staff would want me to go straight to C-section as well. So Spencer, Jillian, Deborah and I had some time alone without any hospital staff in the room, and I tried to mentally prepare myself for a C-section.

They prepped me up, and I had to put on the gown and the whole bit. They had these hilarious green pointy-toed elf socks for me to wear that were pre-warmed. Jillian went home and fed our pets, and grabbed my hospital bag and other miscellaneous items that we needed.

I had to take my contacts out for the surgery, and Jillian didn’t make it back with my glasses before I had to go downstairs to the OR, so for the whole thing everything was really blurry and dreamy. Deborah came downstairs with me and stayed with me the whole time. It was a really surreal and strange experience.

We waited in the OR waiting area and the anesthesiologist asked me some questions, and then we walked down the hallway to the OR. The anesthesiologist put in my IV and then I rolled over on my side so he could give me the spinal.

The spinal didn’t hurt, but when he injected the drugs, I could feel them traveling coldly through my spine. Then slowly I became strangely numb from about my ribcage down. It’s weird, because there are some things you can feel, and others you can’t. You can’t feel pain, but you can feel pressure. So I could feel them pulling off my elf socks and putting on some other long thigh-high socks, and then putting on these weird plastic inflatable leggings.

There was a curtain up at my chest, so I couldn’t see what they were doing. The anesthesiologist sat on my left the whole time, and tested me and asked me questions about what I could feel. He was really funny in a Frasier Crane sort of way; I liked him. He thanked me for being thin, because he said it made everyone’s job here easier. Deborah sat at my right, and then Spencer came in and sat at my right, too. I felt like I was on an alien spaceship, and they were doing weird surgeries on me, except all the aliens were nice and friendly.

It didn’t take them long to get the baby out, and the assisting doctor had to push really hard on my chest so that he would pop out of the incision. Luckily the anesthesiologist had warned me that they were going to do that, and that I would feel it. We heard the doctor quietly say, "It's a boy." It didn't sound like the way they say it in the movies, or even in any of the real-life birth stories I had seen on video or read. He sounded disappointed, and we didn't hear our baby cry right away.

His cord was wrapped around his neck quite tightly three times, so looking back, it was a good thing that I didn’t get induced and try to labour, because his cord would have become compressed and I would have ended up with a C-section anyway.They also said that there was absolutely no amniotic fluid left in my uterus. The baby makes amniotic fluid in its lungs, so when a baby is "dry" it means it is time for it to come out. His skin was peeling and wrinkled, and his nails were long like so many over-cooked babies' are. We remember the doctors saying that his amniotic sac was wrapped around him like saran wrap.

Spencer and LiamSpencer stayed right by me the whole time, just being awesome and rubbing my forehead. It was so amazing when we finally heard William cry! It took him a minute to get going, but then he yelled his head off. Spencer and I looked at each other and just cried.

They quickly showed him to us, and then he went upstairs to the nursery with Spencer. He needed to be on oxygen, because his breathing was irregular. It took them awhile to sew me back up, and I ended up with a neat little scar that was held together by metal staples. It’s really low down, so I can wear a bikini in future and no one will see it.

They wheeled me into recovery, where these two funny nurses clucked over me like hens, taking my temperature and blood pressure, and getting me all tucked into bed. I had to stay there for a bit until I was stable, and Spencer came back downstairs with a little video of William on Jillian’s camera so I could see him.

It was great to see the pictures of our baby, and the video was so cute, he was alert and looking around. It was also hard to look at them because I knew that I wasn’t with him, and he was probably hungry and confused.

After we looked at the photos, the pediatrician Dr. S came downstairs and stood at the side of my bed. He hesitantly explained to me that he thought William had a form of dwarfism, called achondroplasia (ay-KON-dro-play-see-ah). He thought so because of the size and shape of the baby’s head, and also his femur and humerus bones in his arms and legs are disproportionately short. They later confirmed this with x-rays, which is how they diagnose achondroplasia. I went into shock when he told me, and started shaking uncontrollably.

I guess our worst nightmare had come true. We had the complete opposite experience from what we wanted and had come to expect, and ended up with major surgery, which now seemed like such a small deal compared to what they were now telling us: there was something wrong with our baby. Dr. S said that people with achondroplasia generally lead normal and healthy lives; they are just shorter than average and their limbs are of a disproportionate length to their torsos.

That night William had to stay in the nursery, because he had wet lungs and his respirations were about twice as fast as they should have been. They said that it happens to about 10% of C-section babies, because he didn’t get squeezed at all, and that’s how babies usually get the fluid and stuff out of their lungs. He had to sleep in the little isolet, because they could put oxygen in there for him.

They did bring him to my room to try to nurse once they brought me upstairs, but he was pretty pooped and only managed a couple of licks. I pumped colostrum for him, and Spencer and the nurses fed it to him from their fingers. They also had to give him a bit of formula :( because he needed some calories, but I think it was worth it because the next morning he had enough strength to eat.

That night was a hard one, because I wanted to be with my baby, I was slowly regaining the feeling in my legs, I had a catheter in, and I had to wear the inflatable leg socks all night. They inflated and deflated in patterns, squeezing my legs all night long, and the motor was really loud. Spencer slept on the floor beside me once William was asleep in the nursery, and the nurses woke me to pump colostrum in the night. The medicine from the spinal also makes your skin itchy as it wears off, so I was scratching away.

All the excitement of a new baby had been taken away, and was replaced with a dread feeling. I felt as if the baby I had expected for nine months was gone, and had been replaced with a medical nightmare. I had barely met him, so I had no feeling of who he was or what our connection would be. He wasn’t mine yet.

Jillian was so awesome, she stayed for a bit until it was time for bed, and then she went home and took care of our pets and calmed them down. I don’t know what we would have done without her.

LiamThe next morning I went to the nursery to see our baby, and he was ready to eat! He went at it with gusto! This is when we really bonded with our son - it was so excellent to just sit and be with him, and to nourish him. We just sat and held him, and I fed him, ad we got to know him. This is when we decided on the name William Sparrow. The name seems to fit - he will grow up as a Little Person, and sparrows are light and little. We just fell in love with him there in the nursery.

There was a little sensor taped to his foot to monitor the amount of oxygen in his blood, because he still had some fluid in his lungs and was breathing fast. So he had to stay in the nursery all that day and that night, so they could make sure he was getting enough oxygen. But after that first night he didn’t have to sleep in the isolet, he got to sleep in the regular bassinet.

I stayed in the nursery most of that day, and went to my room for a nap when he slept. Spencer stayed with us too, and then I made him go to his mum’s house with Jillian (three blocks from the hospital) for some food and to get away from the hospital environment. Sean and Teneille came to visit, and Spencer’s mum, too. They all brought food, which was great, because I was SO hungry, and Spencer had to eat, too. The nurses were great; they came and woke me in the night whenever William woke up, because parents can’t sleep in the nursery.

The next morning the doctor decided that William could come off the oxygen sensor, so then he got to hang out in our room with us! It was so nice to just be with him in private, and to sleep with him in the room. I also got dressed and had a shower that day, which was a big highlight for me. Teneille came to visit again, and Jillian, too. She took Spencer home so he could shower and eat, and then he came back in our car with the baby seat.

We watched some movies on breastfeeding and car seats that night in our room, and then the next morning we were discharged! William’s breathing was normal, and I was healing well from the C-section.

So that’s my birth story. It really didn’t go at all how I wanted it to, or how we had planned. But when it came down to it, and we had make decisions, we just wanted to do what was best for our baby. It’s a little weird to have a baby but to never have gone through labour, but we made the right decision in the end. There really was no amniotic fluid left in my uterus, and he was definitely ready to come out. And now we have our little William Sparrow!

First Family PhotoThe first little while was hard; not only having a newborn but learning that he will grow up as a dwarf was a big adjustment. It seemed like a sentence for him at first, but we’ve remained positive and we’re going to give him the most active and involved life that we can. People with achondroplasia are usually born to average-sized parents - it’s caused by a random gene mutation. However, people with achondroplasia can pass on the dominant gene to their children, so Liam’s (as we’ve decided to call him for short) children have a 50% chance of having it.

I couldn’t do a lot of research on the condition at first, it was too hard - I just wanted him to be our baby. But I’ve done a lot of reading since then and have found lots of great articles, essays, and information on the Little People of America website. Here is the link: I recommend the site for further reading. We are excited for our boy, we know he’ll have a challenging life with lots of differences, but he’s got a loving family and an awesome support system of friends to grow up with.

So that’s my story! I’m sorry it took so long for me to get the story up here, but we had a lot to deal with for about a month, and typing was the last thing on my mind or my agenda. I’m so glad that I took the time to type it all out, it’s something we’ll have forever. Thanks for reading along with us, it’s been a blast!

William Sparrow (aka Liam)
November 2nd, 2007 at 9:05 pm
7 lbs, 3 oz.

So there's my baby's Birth Story. Looking back, the only thing I wish I could change was how I heard the news of Liam's diagnosis. They told Spencer upstairs in the nursery, right after they had x-rayed Liam to make sure. Spencer and our midwife Deborah decided together that they would tell me after I was out of recovery and had Liam in my arms. But Dr. S. decided to tell me while I was still in recovery; I guess he wanted to go home. I've never experienced a shock like that in my life, and I'll never forget the uncontrollable shaking of my arms along with the fading numbness in my lower half. I wish I would have learned that news while I held my baby in my arms and tried to nurse him. Instead it was right after I had seen a video of him in an isolet.

This story is so different of how our life with Liam has been so far. He is so funny and silly, and I'm going to write about all the hilarious things he does and include pictures of how cute he is!
(Well, here's one for now - my little moustachio at 16 months old.)

Thanks for reading,


Alison Voyvodich said...

He is adorable, and I loved your story, you never know what you are going to get in life. Liam is your special gift and as he grows and matures, his life will bless yours in so many ways. Best wishes for a best life for your family.

deedee said...

Thank you for telling your story. Liam is a very cute little boy. I can relate to many parts of your story. I look forward to reading more about Liam and your family adventures.

Peach Rainbow said...

this is so emotional.
i have no experience in pregnancy or labor, thank you for the details and for sharing your story.
i have been following 'under the glow' but today is the first time i got to see this blog.