Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jillian's Turn

Hi Everyone,

I have not yet contributed anything to this blog, but finally have a bit of "free" time and am now ready to write a little bit about my experience in this journey thus far. I am feeling pretty emotional right now. Our baby girl is five days old. I was discharged from the hospital yesterday and had to leave without Aurelia. Charley returned to Gettysburg today. It has been a long day, but I think I'd like to share with you a little bit about Aurelia's unexpected extrance into the world.

I woke up last Thursday morning to see Madison peeking over the side of her Pack 'N Play. We had been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Camden, NJ for almost a week. My doctors had suggested that we relocate to Philadelphia early, just in case I went into labor. Thank God that we did. It was lovely to wake up to Maddie's adorable face peeking over toward my bed. Most mornings, I have been waking up facing the other direction and have been greeted by a giant SpongeBob Squarepants mural. Our entire room at the RMcH is decorated with this "Pineapple Under the Sea" dwelling character and we are all going to need therapy when we vacate this room! In any case, my mom (who is with us, to help care for Madison) was not yet awake, so I picked Maddie up and brought her into bed with me to read some stories. She wasn't in the mood for books, so she hopped out of the bed and headed over to the couch to play with her SpongeBob magne-doodle. I sat on the couch for a second or two and then felt a great rush. I had a feeling that my water had broken, but since I did not experience labor with Madison, I wasn't quite sure. Plus, my due date wasn't for another 3 weeks and my scheduled c-section wasn't for another week and a half. I couldn't possibly be in labor!

Well, I soon discovered that I was in fact in labor. I woke up my mom and started pacing the room. Mom got dressed and decided to arrange for a cab to take us to the hospital. Mom was very nervous about driving in the city and didn't want to take any risks with getting lost. I called my doctors at CHOP and then I called Charley while I waited for the doctor to call me back. Once it was determined that my water had in fact broken (there was really no doubt in my mind!!), I was told to come to the hospital immediately. Charley, who was at work (back home), made arrangements with his job and hopped in the car to head home. He had to get a bag for himself, take care of the cats, and get on the road to Philly.

I went into overdrive. I continued pacing the room, throwing things into my bag as I passed them and determined that they might be useful. I had thought about packing a bag the night before - maybe it was a premonition of what was to come, but I didn't actually do it. In fact, we were going to go to the Aquarium that day. I thought that it would be a fun visit for Madison and a good way for us to get out of the house for a bit. Luckily, my water broke long before we were out the door!

I got my things together, along with a few things for Madison, and headed downstairs to meet my ride. Fortunately, the RMcH has a shuttle and one of the drivers just happened to be walking in the door, along with the manager. She told us that the shuttle could take us. We got Madison situated in the carseat and we were on our way.

The drive was a little scary. It was rush-hour and I started to feel some contractions, which was a new feeling for me. Madison was very nervous about being in a different car and I spent most of the ride trying to reassure her that we were okay and trying to be calm through my contractions. I didn't take a birthing class this time around, so breathing techniques weren't really on the forefront of my mind. I was actually thinking - Holy Crap, I'm in labor. I'm having this baby today. This can't be happening. Charley will never get here on time and I'm going to have to do this myself.

As you can see, I wasn't the most positive thinker throughout the beginning of this process. It got better though. At least, my thinking got better. We made it to CHOP and our shuttle driver, Dan, got me into a wheelchair and brought me all the way up to the SDU (Special Delivery Unit) at CHOP. The hospital is the first pediatric hospital in the world to have an SDU, which is pretty amazing.

They got me into a room and I met with a few nurses and finally a doctor who did a quick exam and determined that my water had in fact broken (duh!) and I was in labor. I was getting scared, but I saw some familiar faces of folks that I had met during my various appointments at CHOP, so that was somewhat soothing. Dr. Kalik, who was my favorite OB that I met, came in to see me and I also saw one of the midwives that I had seen on several previous CHOP visits. Seeing both gave me a bit of comfort and made me feel like I wasn't totally alone.

They told me that there was another c-section that was scheduled, but that since I was starting to feel some contractions, they would bump that person and have me go first. By this time, I was starting to feel uncomfortable because some of the contractions were pretty strong. Charley and I talked several times that morning and we both knew that he likely wouldn't make it. While that sucked, neither one of us wanted to stress the baby any further, so we agreed that we would do whatever the doctors recommended. For some reason, the original plan to allow me to have my c-section first got changed and I had to wait while they did the other person's surgery. I had to wait while they cleaned the OR and prepped it for me. In the mean time, my contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I had a really bad one and Madison (who was in my room, hanging close to my mom), started to get upset. In a way, it was good that she was there. I could focus on her and not let the pain get me too upset, for fear of upsetting her. On the other hand, I was a in a lot of freaking pain and I really wanted my mom to take her somewhere else so that she didn't have to see me in pain.

I'm not sure how quickly time passed, but before I knew it, it was nearly noon and they were getting ready to take me to the OR. I still hadn't heard from Charley and I was prepared to be alone for the surgery. I kissed my mom and Madison goodbye and told her that Mama was going to take her baby sister out of her belly because she just couldn't wait to meet her. Throughout all of this, I kept thinking about my friend helen, who went into labor very early in her pregnancy and had to have a spinal while she was having severe contractions. When she told me that story, many months ago, neither of us imagined that I'd be in the same boat sometime in the future. Although, I will say, when they checked me in, I was only 2 centimeters dialated, so I'm sure that the contractions could have gotten a whole lot worse. For me, they were bad enough!

I got into the OR and they talked me through my spinal. I had several strong contractions during that time and I was really scared that the spinal wouldn't take. In fact, they told me that I would need to lie down immediately after they gave me the spinal because my blood pressure would drop and they didn't want me to pass out or fall off of the table. When they told me to lie down I was having a particularly bad contraction and I was certain that the spinal had not been properly done. I continued to feel pain for approximately 3 seconds and then, nothing. I was so relieved to be without pain, but panic set in again. I would soon be giving birth to our baby girl. Charley wasn't with me. I knew that they would be able to take care of my baby, but I was so scared for her.

And then Charley walked in and was there for the birth of our baby. I cried when I saw him. He made it! Just in time! It was a beautiful moment. When they pulled Aurelia out of me, Charley snapped a quick couple of pictures and then they wisked her away to put the lines into her belly button and to get her going on the meds that she would need. I didn't even get to see her. Luckily, Charley had taken those pictures, so I could see a picture of my beautiful girl.

I don't have much memory of the next few hours. I know that they got me all stitched up and I can remember being back in the room. I know that I got very sick, coming off of the anesthesia. I had the same experience with Madison and it is not one that I am anxious to have again! I can remember kissing Maddie and my mom goodbye, as they headed back to the Ronald McDonald House for the evening.

But, I can't remember meeting Aurelia for the first time. I think that I was taken to her in the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) in my wheelchair and I think that was able to stand up and kiss her toes, which was about all I could reach when I bent over. But I don't know when that happened. I know that they got me pumping within 4 hours after she was born and I'm not sure if I saw her before or after that happened.

No matter what, I was so excited to meet my little girl. I feel so much joy when I look at her. I feel hopeful for her future, but really, really scared too. The next few days, as you know from reading Charley's earlier posts, were a whirlwind. Surgery and recovery for Aurelia. And visits from family and friends. I was discharged from the hospital yesterday and while I was very happy to be with Madison again, it was so very painful to leave the hospital without our Aurelia.

Her heart surgery is scheduled for next Monday, October 4th. The day that she was supposed to be born. Until then, and beyond then, I will continue fighting for, praying for, and taking care of our little girl. We'll do whatever she needs to get well. It is good to know that there are so many friends and family that are doing the same.


  1. I'm right alongside of you, Jillian, and loving you and our family every step of the way! You are amazing!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jillian. I can't tell you how upset I was when you went into early labor that you knew anything about my delivery!!! I am sorry for any stress it caused and so glad it was a better experience.

    I can really relate to how you describe some of those first hours post-birth (minus the sick part) -- they felt sort of impressionistic or something. As we said, the whole thing is surreal. It is strange because when you are in it, sometimes it feels like the days are just crawling by, but other times you lose track of the days they seem to pass so quickly. The road ahead will have highs and lows, but we are all right here with you, cheering you all on! Aurelia already knows what a loving mom she has -- remember that!

  3. Hi Jillian! Thanks for sharing your part of the story. What an adventure you will have to tell Aurelia! And the adventure continues, although none of this is the sort of adventure any of us would like to sign up for. Seeing your little one face so many challenges so early on and overcoming so many already must make you very proud and love her all the more! I am so sorry that you Charley cannot be there with you, but know we are all with you in spirit! We love you all!