Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Theodore Maxwell, The Story So Far

I won't lie, I'll probably have to rewrite this post dozens of times, I will probably cry a lot while writing it, and I will probably have to stop to feed Theo, so this may take a while. 

I feel like the only place I could start is the very beginning, when Justin and I made the decision to start a family. Now, I'll probably share a few too many gory or graphic details, so if this might offend you, please move along. My aim is not to upset anyone, but for me to share my story, and help myself grieve. You've probably read grieve and thought to yourself 'Oh no, but I thought the baby was okay?', he is, but I'm grieving for the loss of the birth I wanted. You'll see what I mean by the end of this.

So, it was mid September 2014 when Justin and I deciding we were ready to start trying for a baby, to make ourselves a family. I had had an Implanon for about 6 years, so the first step was to have that removed. The only side effect I had from my Implanon was that I hadn't had a menstrual cycle since I had the first one put in, 6 years ago. When I was waiting to have it removed, the doctor was warning me of all of the possible effects, and how long it might take us to conceive. Now and behold, 28 days later I started my cycle, and after 5 days it was over. Shortly after that I fell pregnant. 

Funny thing, we Australians say 'fell pregnant', like we fell down a step. Strange. Anyway I digress.

I remember driving home from work on a Monday night thinking to myself, something wasn't right. I was expecting to start my period over a week ago, and still nothing. I can't possibly be pregnant already...can I? I stopped in at the local Safeway to buy a pregnancy test (actually, I bought 3, just to be sure) and carried on my way home. Cloe was still living with us then, so I said hi as I walked to our room. She was cooking herself dinner before going off for a workout. Odd the things we remember.

I sat down on the toilet and pee'd on the stick. The wait was agonizing. It felt like hours, but in reality was only minutes. I sat and stared at that stick until I saw the lines appear. I had to read and reread the instructions on the box to make sure I wasn't imagining things. I started crying straight away. I was pregnant. I was going to have a little baby. We were going to be a family. Justin was at work, and the only thing I could think to do was send him a text. Heartless I know, but I couldn't form verbal words, so written ones were the best I could manage. I took a photo of the test, and sent it to him at work.

After washing my hands and collapsing on the bed, I did the only thing I could think to do, I called Alex. Besides Justin, Alex was the only other person I wanted to talk to about it. I remember just blurting it out to her, like 'Hey how's it going, I'm pregnant'. Alex told me she'd be right over, and that she was. She took me down to my local doctors to have a blood test and pee test done to confirm everything. Then she waited with me at the pathologist while I had my blood taken, and drove me home again.

We sat on my outside couch, both of us in shock and disbelief. I was carrying a tiny life in my belly. We laughed about what Justin and I would be like as parents, and Alex made me feel so calm and at ease, in what was a shocking and exciting time. I feel that without her there, I probably would have lost my cool. So Alex, thank you for being the best friend I could ask for.

Three days later I returned to the doctors to collect my results. Yes, congratulations Miss Taulien, you're going to have a baby. He handed me a piece of paper and sent me on my way. I had no idea what to do next, so took to the internet to look for a hospital. I wanted to birth at the Angliss, which meant filling out forms for Eastern Health. Little did I know, filling out the forms online meant that a computer decided which hospital I would be booked into. Box Hill was where it sent me, as it classed me as 'high risk'. 

Now, I'm sure most of you reading this know of Box Hill and think it's great, well, I did not have a positive experience there, so to me it's not. Which means when I write about the hospital, it may not always have a positive spin on things. This doesn't mean it's not a great place to have your baby. It just wasn't for me.

So after a few appointments at my local GP, it was time for our first ultrasound. We would finally see the baby growing in my belly. Justin and I waited anxiously for my name to be called. The tech called us in, introduced herself and her student and got on their way. The tech was lovely and explained everything for us. I'm sure I was annoying with all of the questions I was asking. What's that? Why are you measuring this? What view is that? You get my drift. But I wanted to know everything I possibly could. 

She wasn't able to take all of the measurements, so we were booked in for a follow up appointment the next week, in hopes that Pudge had grown some and it would be easier to take all of the measurements. That was fine with me, it meant seeing my tiny baby bean twice! He didn't disappoint, after wiggling like mad, he settled down and the measurements were taken. We didn't know he was a he at the time, and I was sure it was a girl. I so badly wanted a girl. 

The start of my soon to be huge baby belly. Justin was already in love with our baby.
The next few weeks flew by. Christmas came and went, Cloe moved out, I told my boss I was expecting, I started taking belly progress shots. You know, the normal life things were happening. My belly was slowly growing. At first I didn't want to take any photos, and actually I made every effort to avoid being in photos full stop, or if I was in them, I took them from shoulder height so nothing could be seen. But then I realised, even though I don't like how my body looks, my child might one day like to see their life progress, just like I love looking back at old photos of my parents when my mum was pregnant with me.

I started at 15 weeks I think. That's when I first started to notice a change in how I looked. Thankfully I had been very lucky and suffered from no morning sickness, no food cravings or aversions, but that mean that the start of my belly was the only thing that made me feel pregnant. I used to lie in bed and cry because it didn't feel real. I had no proof. Except for all of the test results and scans... 

Anyway, here are a few of my progress shots. Most of you would never have seen these before. Enjoy. L-R: 15w, 16w & 19w.


Around 28 weeks I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. I was devastated. How dare my body fail me, I had been doing everything right. I was eating healthy, I was exercising, I was drinking lots of water, and trying to have 8hrs of sleep a night. Why did this have to happen to me? Well it did, and it sucked. I was put on insulin, and had to return for follow up visits to the hospital for 'education'. I hated that hospital with a burning passion. I could never find street parking, so had to park in the basement level, which charges an arm and a leg. So every time they wanted me to come in for something trivial, it just made me hate them even more.

At 33 weeks I was told by one of the doctors I would be induced. The way he said it was like I had no choice in the matter, my body would never work right, and they had to force my baby out of me. I was explained what would happen, and why and was told it would be when I was 38 weeks, give a day either side. 
My very last belly shot
Well, I had an appointment at 37 weeks, and was asked if I had thought about induction. Are you kidding me people? I was told I had to, and now you're telling me I have a choice? I have already organised everything around this. But because the previous doc hadn't made any notes, or booked me in, nothing had been organised, and according to the hospital records, I wasn't going to be induced. Thankfully there was a locum doctor working in the ward, and could squeeze me in for a check up, and to book me in for my induction. I cannot for the life of me remember her name, but I will forever be grateful to her. Justin couldn't be at that appointment with me, and having them tell me that nothing had been organised, ripped me apart. I had planned everything, I had mentally prepared myself for this to happen. So I was booked in for Monday 3rd August.

That last week dragged like nobody's business. I was already on maternity leave from work, so all I could do was sit around and twiddle my thumbs. The Sunday came and that night, lying in bed, I cried. I was so scared for what was going to happen to me the next night. I was so close to having my baby, and I both was and wasn't ready for it. We had made the decision that Justin would work the Monday night, because it was very unlikely that I would go into labour that day. So we had organised for Sarah to come and pick me up from home and take me to the hospital, and Justin would come see me the next day.

I was freaking out the whole car ride to the hospital, thankfully Sarah realised and kept me sidetracked. We were running early, so stopped to buy a coffee from a 7-11 along the way. Which turned out to be 10 mins away, but it was perfectly fine. It was exactly what I needed. We arrived at the hospital, and after a short wait, we were shown the room I would be staying in for the night. A shared room. I was gutted. This was such a special night for me, I didn't want to share it with strangers! Thankfully, the girl opposite me was discharged a short while later.

Sharie was the nurse who admitted me that Monday night. I liked her, she was brash and to the point, but made us both smile as well. Sarah hung around for a few hours keeping me company. We coloured and chatted. Made small talk about everything and nothing. She made me laugh when I didn't think I had a funny bone left in my body. At about 6pm, I had the first lot of gel applied to my cervix. I was still completely closed, and Sharie didn't think I would start during the night. She left and so did Sarah, I was back to being by myself. I tried to distract myself by reading a book. Nothing kept me interested for very long.

The night shift nurse Talitha arrived, and she was a breath of fresh air. She was bubbly and made me feel instantly at ease. She would check up on me periodically during the night, and at about midnight, or just passed, I had the second lot of gel applied by the resident. Then I was hooked up on monitors, and told to get some rest. Fat chance of that happening! I was so uncomfortable, and because I was being monitored, I couldn't move otherwise the machines went haywire. It was a long night filled with check ups and 10 minute naps here and there. The morning came, and my nurse was now Sarah, a lovely demure lady. She told me to have a shower and freshen up, then it was onto the birthing ward.

Justin still hadn't arrived, mum was no where near to being at the hospital, and dad was at the station somewhere. I was calm, excited, and terrified all at once. My room was big and open, but no birthing bath which was disappointing, but the hospital wagers that induced mothers have to be monitored, and monitors can't go in the water. So I sat on the bed and started reading my book, trying to keep my mind occupied. 

Sharie was back as the lead nurse on my birth, and damn was it nice to have a familiar face. I had a doctor come in and break my waters. Now if you've never had it done, I 10 out of 10 do not recommend. If you imagine a really tightly pulled rubber band, being twung, inside you. But worse. It actually made me dry retch. The doctor tried again and again, but I had no fluids release. She was sure my waters had broken previously, but lady, trust me, they hadn't. Never mind what I think, she left and came back 10 minutes later to try again. Tell you what though, she's lucky I didn't slap her one. 

Anyway, once they had broken my waters, I was left to my own devices for about half an hour, to see if my labor would come on naturally. Unfortunately little Theo was a bit too comfortable in there, and wouldn't budge. This meant being chemically induced. I was hooked up to a drip containing Pitocin, which is the artificial version of Oxytocin, the hormone that starts labor. I went back to reading my book while the drugs started pumping into my body.

I don't remember who arrived first, but just remember everyone being there all of a sudden. This is where things get a little blurry. I know what happened, but I forget in which order. I'll try my best, so bear with me.

I remember sitting on the bed, and I kept having to readjust how I was sitting because my back kept getting sore. Because I had no idea what contractions felt like I presumed it was just my sciatica playing up. The nurses walked in a few times and saw me fidgeting, when finally one of them asked if I was okay. Told her my back was just a bit sore, but not to worry it was normal. She asked me if the pain came and went, and what it felt like. I said it felt like pressure, and yes it was coming and going. She had a little smirk on her face and said 'You're having contractions'.

Holy crap I'm having contractions. This was it. Everything was starting. I think this is when Justin and Sarah arrived. I was given the gas to help with the pain, but it did nothing. I just ended up vomiting from it. Though it could have also been the fact I can't keep things in my mouth (like lollipops) and you need to keep the gas tube in your mouth and breathe in and out through it. Either way it didn't take long until the desire to push started to take over.

The midwives and doctor came in to check on me, and it was decided I wasn't dilated enough, and therefore couldn't push. But how do you not push when that's all your body wants to do. Every fibre of my being wanted to push. No, needed to push. Why you have an epidural of course! 

An epidural works to reduce the feeling of pushing, it works for some, and not for others. Everyone is different. The only trouble was, I was already in full blown contractions when they had to administer mine. Which meant sitting incredibly still, and having to arch my back a certain way, to enable the guy (JK his name was) to find the right spot in my spine to stick the giant needle. All while going through body thrashing contractions.

Sarah and Justin had to stand in front of my and hold me still. I just remember crying telling him to hurry up because it was getting worse. I felt the stab of the needle, then nothing. The feeling of pushing had gone, and I finally felt calm. I think that's when mum arrived. Dad arrived shortly after, carrying a Subway bag. He had been looking at the shops while waiting for me to tell him it was okay to come to the hospital. I was lying on the bed on my right side, calm as a daisy, chatting away to everyone like it was nothing. Labor shlabor.

That didn't last long though. I soon started feeling the need to push again. They'd told me that when I feel the contraction coming, to push the little button connected to the epi, and it would help dull the pain. I was pressing the button but nothing was happening. I didn't actually realise I was pressing it until mum asked me if I felt alright. She was sitting next to me and we were just talking about nonsense. Sarah had left, Justin and Dad were wandering the hospital. 

Mum said to me, 'You're having contractions aren't you?', Yeah mum, of course I am. But apparently I shouldn't have been able to feel them. Mum started timing them, and told the midwife. She said that she would check on me in another 45 mins. A few minutes later, as my contractions continued, she returned. Mum urged her to check me now, as my contractions were 30 seconds long and 2 minutes apart. She agreed and checked my cervix. She looked up at me and said 'You can have your baby now!". I nodded and asked if this meant I could push, she said yes, and I screamed. You see, we couldn't afford the birthing classes they offered, so I had no idea how to push or what to do, 

The midwives who were looking after me were some of the most amazing people I will ever meet. They taught me how to breathe, and push while I was having a baby. At first I was pushing with every contraction, but then I was going to fast, and they were worried that Theo would suffer distress, so I was told only to push on every second contraction. Mum grabbed Justin so he could be in the room with me, and swapped, opting to sit in the waiting room with my dad.

Our doctor was Amy, and she was amazing. Every time I pushed, it was 2 steps forward, and one step back. Pudge just wouldn't budge. He became stuck in my birth canal and we needed to use interventions and fast. First Amy tried the forceps, she could fit the first one in and around the side of his head, but not the second one. She tried 3 times before apologising and changing to the vacuum. I would push and she would suction. I could hear the other doctor talk about prepping the OR in 2 minutes, if I couldn't get his head out. Hearing that gave me all the energy I needed. I was determined not to have a cesarean. It took what felt like ages, but eventually Theo's head was birthed, and there was no more talk of an emergency c-section.

His cord was wrapped around his neck twice, then once around his arm. As he came down my canal, the cord tightened and became a noose. It was cut immediately, but the trouble didn't stop there. Now his shoulders were stuck. All I felt was burning pain. I can't think of another way to describe it. Once his shoulders were out, they dropped him onto my tummy, but immediately took him away from me. Theo was born with no heart beat and not breathing. 

A Code Blue was called, and the response team ran into the room. Theodore was moved over to the special bed they have set up for babies who need help. I remember looking at Justin who was on my left side, smiling and crying, then looking over to the right, and seeing my little lifeless baby. They were doing compressions on his tiny chest, trying to get his heart rate up. He was intubated from 1 minute of life, and the compressions lasted for 11 minutes. - I didn't know this until I read it in our discharge papers over a week later. - Of course I started freaking out, which I think the midwives noticed, as one of them stood in my line of sight, and explained that Theodore needed a bit of extra help. She didn't tell me why, or what could happen. 

Amy tried to get me to concentrate on the tasks at hand. I still had yet to birth the placenta, plus as I had suffered a grade 3 tear, and been given an episiotomy, so I required stitches. I had to lie there, unable to move, not being told what was wrong with my son, while everyone ran around like mad men around me. 

Justin kept me sane, talking to me about how much of an amazing job I had done, and how proud he was of me. I birthed the placenta no problem, then it was time for the stitches. As Amy was starting, she said to me to tell her if I feel any pinching. I could feel every damn stitch. I told her I could feel the pinching, so she administered more local and kept sewing. I could still feel everything, so more local, and back to sewing. After this, even though I could still feel everything, I kept my mouth shut, in hopes it would be over quicker. Afterwards I highfived Amy, telling her she had done a great job. Apparently high fiving your doctor whilst she's covered in blood and afterbirth, is not a normal thing. But hey.

Justin left to room to go and see Theodore, and I was left alone for the first time in what felt like weeks. I had been so calm during everything, it suddenly hit me. I had just given birth to a baby boy, and he might not survive. I could do nothing but cry. Giant wailing sobs. Annabel walked in and found me a sobbing mess. She managed to calm me down, and even get me to laugh. She explained what had happened to Theo, and what would be happening now. We were waiting for the NETs team to transport Theo to a NUCI for specialised care, they were just trying to find a hospital with a bed.

Already sleeping hahaha
Eating dinner just chilling.
The hospital staff bought me dinner, and mum, dad and Justin came back into the room. We chatted about things, like the fact that the chair was comfortable, and you could probably sleep in it (which Justin later did). We talked about the food, dad tried to steal some of my lasagna, but I smacked him with my fork. It was like nothing had happened. Everything was normal again. I was still waiting to find out if I was allowed to get out of bed and go see my son, but everything was relatively normal.

A short while later, the midwife came in to tell me the NETS team was there and they were going to be taking him to The Royal Childrens. She wanted to know if I would like to see him. After arguing with me about if I could walk or not (because of the epidural - which had worn off hours earlier) she finally brought in a wheelchair, and wheeled me to the special care nursery to see Theo. He was this purple splodge of a baby. Covered in wires and vernix. He was so swollen his little eyes were squished shut, and he looked like.. well, see for yourself.

The lead staff from NETS came over and explained that they were going to take him to The Childrens, and that I could meet them there if I was being discharged. She suggested that someone go with him, I immediately told Justin to go, and that I would be fine, and would make my way there somehow. They loaded Theo into the humidicrib, strapped everything down and wheeled him away. I have never felt such a gut wrenching sorrow before. He had been alive for over 5 hours, and I had yet to be closer than 4 feet away. I hadn't been able to touch him or hold him yet, and they were already taking my baby away from me. I knew it was the best decision I could make, but it broke my heart to see my little man like that.

Justin left with the NETS team, dad drove mum home, and I was all alone. Annabel came in to help me have a shower, which if you've never done while connected to a drip, and with a catheter inserted, is not particularly grceful. Afer my shower I felt like a whole new person. A no longer pregnant person with rips and tears to wazoo, but still. I settled into my new room (with a double bed!) and started working on Theodores birth certificate paperwork. I wandered the halls just to be able to walk. I called and text my family to let them know I was okay, anything to try and not lose my mind. 

Justin called near midnight to tell me Theo was doing well, all things considered, and they had him cooled and being monitored. Unfortunately though there was no bed for Justin to stay in, no couches for him to sit on, and wouldn't let him stay the night, so he had to leave. He was going to go home, but the thought of us spending another night apart when wwe didn't need to killed me, so I told him to come back to Box Hill to be with me. He arrived about an hour later after his amazing friend Matt picked him up and drove him over. The night nurse told me I needed to get some rest, and be able to pee on my own, before I could leave the next day, so I started drinking as much water as I could handle.

We finally fell asleep after talking and crying for hours, when suddenly it was morning and the day shift nurse came to wake me up. I was checked over, and given the all clear to leave, I just needed to see the physio to talk about after care, then we could go. Justins parents had driven to pick us up, and would take us to see Theo. Once discharged I practically ran to the car and was anxious to get to The Childrens to see Theo.

We arrived in the middle of morning hand over. We walked in with my bags and sat in the corner, patiently waiting. I did nothing but stare at my baby the whole while they were talking, so much so, that I didn't realise they had finished speaking. The lead doctor on that day sat down with us and explain Theodore's condition. He has suffered a HIE (Hypoxic-Ischemic-Encephalopathy) which is characterized by clinical and laboratory evidence of acute or subacute brain injury due to asphyxia. Essentially he's suffered an short episode of lack of oxygen, and may have brain damage as a result. We wouldn't know the severity of the episode until an MRI was done the next week.

Theodore's first day at The Royal Childrens Hospital. He has a breathing tube, heart rate monitor, nasal gastric tube, brain monitors, PIC line, cannula, umbiline, a rectal thermometer, and an O2 stats machine hooked up.

As The Royal Childrens (RCH) doesn't have an obstetrics department, and Box Hill had classed me as self discharged, the midwife at RCH was hesitant to allow me to stay in their Post-Nantal Mothers Unit (PMU), because they wouldn't be able to care for me. This meant I wouldn't be able to stay at the hospital and be with my son. Thankfully I have brilliant bargaining skills, and the midwife Elizabeth was an amazing lady, she found me a room to stay in for 6 nights. So I could be on call when I needed to express and feed Theo (He was on nil orally, so they would only feed him through his nasal gastric), and I could walk upstairs and see him whenever I wanted to.

We settled in to our room, and went back up to sit by Theo's bedside. I stared at him, for hours on end. Because he was being cooled, we couldn't pick him up, we could only touch him. I will never forget the first time I held him little hand, for as long as I damn well live. Just knowing that he was receiving the best care possible, and knowing that I could be there for him the whole time, really helped me keep my cool. 

Day two he had his breathing tube removed. The doctors and nurse were so impressed with how he was doing. He still hadn't known any signs of seizure, and was thriving. Justin would read to him, just as he had done while I was pregnant. The nurses kept asking what we were going to name him, because we hadn't decided on a name yet. 

As he improved, the staff removed more of the lines and monitors from him. They removed his umbi line, and his PIC line, so now he had a free hand. We were helping change his nappy and attend to his care. We would wipe his lips with Vaseline to help keep them moist and we would clean his eyes with saline soaked cotton balls. He was now able to have breastmilk via his feeding tube, and was opening his eyes and looking around. It was so amazing to think that this tiny baby, who in reality was actually twice as large as some of the other babies there, was finally starting to come alive.

The days went past until finally they had scheduled to start the rewarming process. This meant the bed he was lying on would be warmed up by half a degree every 2 hours until it, and Theo, were back to normal body temp. The whole process takes about 12 hours. Once warmed we were finally able to hold him. I had been looking forward to this day every since I found out I was pregnant. It was everything I had hoped for. Pure magic. It was as if my heart exploded with all of the love it had been holding onto since he was born. I couldn't talk, all I could do was cry. Then it was Justin's turn. His whole face lit up with joy, like his life was complete now. Those moments are some that I will never forget.

The next day the doctors ordered an MRI for little Pudge, to check for any damage to the brain, caused by the HIE. He was moved out of the main NICU section, to another part there, because he had improved so much, they decided he didn't need such intense care. We were still helping with all of his care, which was lovely. We helped him with his first bath, turns out he loves the water! 

The day after that (Monday) we had the scheduled MRI. Bubs needed to be incredibly still and calm for them to get all of the images they needed. I fed him just before he went in, and they dosed him with sucrose to make him dopey. Thankfully all went to plan, and all of the images were taken successfully. 

On the Tuesday, the doctors cleared him for discharged stating that the results from the MRI were clear, and there was no sign of any damage. Theo had a hearing test done, which he passed. Then it was homeward bound, or would have been. They had offered for me to go home from there, or go back to Box Hill for a couple of days. Now, having been in an NICU where your baby is constantly monitored, to going home by yourself is a daunting option, so I requested to go back to Box Hill for a bit of further education. All I wanted to do was practice breastfeeding, and give him a bath by myself. Big Mistake.

Apparently Box Hill was only expecting my baby, and not me. So when I arrived (with my mum who had been visiting at RCH) they had no room for me, and told me I should go home, and they would keep Theo there. Fat chance lady. Either I stay or we both go. After hours of them apparently trying to find me a room when they said there were none, they magically found an empty room. Now I had been lead to believe that I would have Theo in the room with me, and just have the help there if I needed it. No, according to them Theo would stay out in the nursery and I would be woken when he needed feeding. This is not what I wanted at all. how would I know when my baby was hungry? How would I learn to wake up to his noises and pick him up to feed him? 

The midwife on staff that night was a retched woman. She told me numerous times that I was holding Theo the wrong way, and that I should be good at this by now. I text Justin in the middle of the night I was so mad. How dare she! She was meant to be there to help me, not hinder me! 

The next morning at rounds, the doctors advised that we could go home in a few days, and they were very happy with Theodore's progress. A few days? No, we would be going home today. I told them that all I wanted to learn how to do was bathe Theo, then we wanted to go home. They were confused but understood and told me they would work it out. A couple of hours later I had a knock on my door, the doctors had organised it so we could go home today. The midwife taught me how to bathe Pudge (a terrible way, by the way), then after a short hysterical panic about lost keys, we were finally one our way home.

So even though it wasn't a great experience, the hospital didn't read my birth plan, my son was in the NICU all that jazz, I couldn't imagine life any other way. I now have a beautiful 3 month old son, who loves smiling at people and rolling over. My life is pretty awesome.


Thanks for reading my massive ramble. It was really cathartic to write it all down, and now I have it written somewhere to go back to, when I'm old and suffering memory loss. Or, tomorrow, when I'm over tired and forget what day it is.

Welcome to motherhood Jayde.

Love xx

Mumma T

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