I just read my last post and so much has happened since then. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and changes this year. This post is going to be a long one…
At the start of this year, my husband and I decided it was time to grow our little family of four (two fur babies). By the end of February, we were expecting! Shocking. We didn’t expect to get pregnant so quickly and easily. We were completely over the moon and couldn’t wait to tell our families. They all thought we were pulling some sort of prank on them at first, but they were all happy.
We heard our little one’s heart beating for the first time a few weeks later. It was one of the best sounds in the world. I almost cried. I managed to hold myself together. We started having regular ultrasounds and loved seeing our little creation grow and grow. We broke the news to our closest friends on St. Patrick’s Day while everyone was together. That was a fun event.
At the same time that we found out I was pregnant, I received a call for a job I had applied for in November. Everything went so quickly and by the start of April, I was in a new position and things were really looking up. My new coworkers made me feel welcomed immediately and my supervisors didn’t have any issues when I told them I was pregnant.
Baby and I had genetic testing done and received the results at the beginning of May. These results also told us we were having a boy. Our first baby boy. Our little guy. My little buddy. We named him Ethan Alexander. My mother-in-law started sending us boxes upon boxes of clothes, blankets, and toys. Other family also started gifting us things for the baby and offering so much support.
The second trimester was full of sonograms and we started seeing a specialist for extra monitoring. I was diagnosed with hypertension and gestational diabetes early on during the pregnancy. I had to start taking blood pressure medicine and insulin to help control things. At 20 weeks, our specialist told us Ethan was measuring 2 weeks behind. This was a surprise since up until our 18-week appointment he was measuring exactly where he needed to be. We ran some more tests to make sure it wasn’t due to common genetic issues or infections and the results came back clear. We waited and hoped he would have a significant growth spurt by the next visit. Unfortunately, we were eventually told he had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) so he’d be small. Every day I hoped and prayed that our little guy kept growing. I started feeling him move around and kicking in me and I loved it. The human body is amazing and growing another life felt incredible.
Then came our 28-week appointment with the specialist to follow up on Ethan’s growth. We had the ultrasound tech do her thing. We even got a 3D view of our little guy. He measured 4 weeks behind. That was a significant delay in growth. Then our specialist came in to take his official measurements and discuss the results with us. He told us that Ethan was suffering from something called intermittent absent end-diastolic flow (AEDF). Essentially his placenta and umbilical cord were not providing him with enough blood to grow. That’s when the doctor said it was a “sign of impending fetal demise.”
So you know in movies and tv shows when the character just sees everything moving away from them? Like tunnel vision I suppose? Well, that’s exactly how I felt in that moment. I tried my best to keep listening to what the doctor had to say but I broke. My husband and I started crying. Those aren’t words you want to hear. After a bit, we were able to calm down enough to have the doctor tell us to go to the hospital and get admitted into the high-risk OB area. There was no going home after this appointment – it was straight to the hospital with me and Ethan so we could be constantly monitored and be ready to deliver.
I was put on hospital-bound bed rest and told I’d be there until he was 37 weeks or until we saw that he was in distress and needed to be delivered. The following day was super stressful and my blood pressure was insanely high. Like hypertensive emergency high. They heavily medicated me and monitored me all day until it went back to normal. It was frightening and I would’ve had to deliver if they hadn’t been able to lower it with the last round of medicine they gave me. Thankfully it didn’t happen. The next few days were busy with monitoring Ethan 3x a day. Our nurses were amazing and so helpful. Our little guy seemed to like letting them find him with the doppler and once it was strapped down he would move away! What a little tease. We also noticed he’d move when my husband talked to him. It was the sweetest thing…
I was admitted on Friday evening. By Wednesday evening, Ethan hadn’t moved as much as usual but I wasn’t concerned because he was moving. One of our friends had stopped by to visit and was there when we did our second NST of the day. The nurse stepped out and Ethan’s heart rate was lower than usual. Suddenly 3 other nurses came in and started telling us it was time to have a baby. They had already explained everything so I was ready for it. My husband was panicking as any new dad probably does. Our friend helped by getting in touch with the rest of our friends and updating them. I was given oxygen for Ethan and wheeled off to Labor & Delivery to be prepped. My OB showed up and we had enough time to do an epidural and have my husband in the operating room with me.
At 4:52 PM, August 22nd we heard another beautiful sound. The cry of our first child. Our little miracle. And boy was he truly a miracle. It turned out he had a knot in his umbilical cord very close to the placenta. We were told that oftentimes that ends with having a miscarriage or stillbirth. Our OB and the other medical staff were surprised by the knot and the fact that Ethan was opening his eyes and breathing pretty well on his own at just 29 weeks. He also measured a bit bigger than they expected. He only measured 2 weeks behind, not 4 (ultrasounds aren’t the most accurate). I got to say hello and kiss my baby boy before he and dad were whisked off to the NICU. I was stitched back up and returned to recover. My family and our friends started showing up. It wasn’t the ideal story of Ethan’s birthday, but it was a happy evening nevertheless. We had our baby and now we just had to wait for him to grow in the NICU. I was to be released from the hospital at the end of the week.
Leaving the hospital without my baby was tough. I got home and essentially had an anxiety attack by the next day. That week we spent going to the hospital twice a day and watching our baby on the camera when we weren’t at his side. The NICU was full of its own ups and downs. We were able to do kangaroo care (skin to skin) with him and hold our baby. Seeing the joy on my husband’s face when he held Ethan for the first time brought tears to my eyes. It was a special moment I will never forget.
Sadly, Ethan wasn’t tolerating feeds and his belly was getting distended and discolored as the days went on. One night we were told to head to the hospital right away to be with him. Not knowing anything else, we thought we were going to get there and he’d be gone. My husband and I were a mess driving to the hospital. That 15-minute drive was the longest it could be. Once there we saw his vitals were ok but he still wasn’t doing well. We spent two nights in a room at the NICU. The worry was that he’d get NEC and require surgery. The day we went back home because he was doing better we received another call. After 11 days in the NICU, his bowels perforated and we were told that if all went as expected it would be a fairly simple surgery to redirect his system with an ostomy bag for a few weeks and then another surgery to connect his bowels when everything healed. We agreed he needed the surgery and went back to the NICU room we had just left hours before to wait. Shortly after the nurse practitioner went to get us and walked us to Ethan’s NICU area where the surgery was being performed at his bedside. They sat us down and the surgeon started explaining:
Originally they thought that a very limited section of Ethan’s bowels was not working correctly. Once they opened him up, they realized it was the opposite. 98 percent of his bowels were dead. The 2 percent they saw on the x-rays was actually the live portion. Due to two very rare malformations while in utero, Ethan’s bowels had not grown properly. That’s when we heard another thing no parent wants to hear. The living portion of his bowels was not “viable to sustain life.” Ethan’s blood pressure and heart rate were already declining. We were asked if we wanted to hold him as he passed away. So for the next hour or so we cried and held our baby and each other. He was a tough little fighter. He didn’t seem to be ready to go. I didn’t want him to go. Leaving the hospital and the NICU this time was different. We were going home alone without our precious miracle, with only our memories of this short time we got to spend together and all our future plans and dreams crushed.
I still have almost a month left to go on my recovery from the surgery but a lifetime to go on recovering from this deep hurt. Some days are ok but most nights are not. Some nights are full of a deep pain and sadness. Today is a tough day. I was supposed to have my baby shower. We were supposed to be celebrating Ethan’s upcoming arrival… I am crushed but trying to work through it all…