Thursday, September 27, 2007

Happy Birthday (The Story of AJ)

I was never good with babies and kids. I was the baby myself, and spent my whole life around people older than I was. Babies made me nervous. I knew even less about little boys.

Imagine my surprise.

I think we were planning to take a vacation somewhere. It occurred to me that I couldn't remember the last time I had a period. I wasn't too concerned since they weren't that regular anyway. But we decided to take a pregnancy test. It immediately came back positive. I had recently started a new job and didn't have insurance yet. Fortunately, we have a friend who is an Ob/Gyn and he agreed to examine me. Hubby and I figured that I was about 4-6 weeks along. Doc started with an internal ultrasound. To his amazement, he found a HUGE head! He quickly removed the wand and got the regular ultrasound set up. As he measured, he asked how far along we though I was. Looks like we had it all wrong -- I was measuring 12 weeks pregnant! Apparently I had missed my entire first trimester...I was due on New Year's Eve.

Since I'm diabetic, we spent the next few weeks going to see Doc twice a week to set my insulin doses. I'm too chicken to give myself a shot, but Hubby was all too willing to tell me to "assume the position" twice a day so he could give me an insulin shot in the butt.

Everything seemed to be going fine. My sugar was fine, but Doc and I discussed the possibility that I would need a C-section because babies of diabetics tend to be on the large side. An ultrasound at 23 weeks confirmed that it was a boy. We decided on the name Anthony James (AJ for short). Daddy didn't like the name "Tony", so this was a nice alternative.

At 6 months my feet started to swell a little. Hubby was monitoring his blood pressure at home, so I started checking mine too. One Wednesday evening, I was checking my blood pressure while Hubby was getting ready for church. My pressure was a little elevated. Hubby mentioned it to Doc at church that night, and was told to have me stop by his office the next day.

On September 24, 2004 we went to his office after work. He did a short examination and left the room. When he came back in, he told us that I wasn't going home that night and asked me which hospital I wanted to go to.

We went home and grabbed a few things before checking in at Memorial Hermann Katy on Thursday night. I was put on a monitor for the night and was not allowed out of bed. By about 5:30am the next morning, the hospital decided I should be transferred. They were too small to handle a potential high risk delivery.

It was a Friday morning during rush hour, and they didn't want me off the monitors long enough to ride to the hospital. A tropical storm was due to hit the Houston area that day, so all of the Life Flight units were hangared. They found a small medical helicopter out of Conroe that was in air. They picked me up and took me on the 8 minute flight to Memorial Southwest.

Friday was a flurry of neonatologists and high risk specialists. I apparently had low anmiotic fluid along with my borderline pre-eclampsia. AJ kept compressing his cord and cutting of his circulation. I was given a bed and informed that I would be there for the rest of my pregnancy. A blood pressure cuff took readings every thirty minutes. Nurses came in to draw 6 vials of blood every 6 hours, then every 12 hours. I was started on steroids and surfactant to help with lung development in case we had to deliver and magnesium sulfate to prevent the risk of seizures from the high blood pressure. (P.S. Mag is some NASTY stuff and would require a post of its own!) I settled in. We brought in pictures and things from home to make the hospital room more cozy.

On Sunday afternoon, Doc visited me with news. He said he couldn't explain it, but all of my bloodwork had gone in completely (good) the opposite direction than they expected. I might be able to go home on bed rest in about three weeks instead of three months. The high risk specialist would be back on Monday to check my progress.

Monday's ultrasound was not good. AJ was now getting reverse flow through the umbilical cord. He had not grown much since the ultrasound three weeks earlier. He was becoming growth-restricted. The doctor said we would need to deliver now. The neonatologists at Memorial Southwest were on call, but could take up to 20 minutes to arrive when needed. The decision was made to move me again.

We were on the road again - this time to the "mother ship" - Memorial Hermann Medical Center. This time I was transported in an ambulance with Hubby and my parents following behind. I was checked in at 2:00pm on Monday, September 27th. Within a few minutes, a nurse informed me that I was next in line. WHAT?!

A parade of social workers, specialists, and neonatologists came in to give us an update. The scenario -- few babies this small survive; the ones that do survive have severe medical and developmental problems. There were risks of deafness, blindness, brain bleeds...the list went on and on. It seemed pretty hopeless. I was terrified. Hubby and I asked for a few minutes alone to consider saying goodbye to our little one.

At 6:00pm I was taken in for an epidural. At 6:34pm, tiny little AJ was delivered. He weighed only 18 ounces and was 10 inches long. Hubby heard a small sound from the next room while they were working on him. He assumed it came from somewhere else, because how could something so small make any noise? Turns out it really was out little guy.

It was late the next evening before I got to see him for the first time. A week later I was able to hold him for the first time.

The next two and a half months were spent driving from Katy to the Medical Center every night. At six weeks old, AJ finally reached 2 pounds. He was fed through a tube until he could be taught to suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time. He had an umbilical hernia and two inguinal hernias. His thyroid was not functioning properly, so he needed medication for that.

On December 8, 2004 the doctors decided that he was basically just taking up space. They were a little nervous because they had never discharged a baby who was still so small, but they couldn't find a medical reason to keep him. At the doctor visit the day after he was discharged, he weighed exactly 4 pounds.

He had surgery at 6 months old to repair the inguinal hernias. The umbilical hernia repaired itself. He takes one small pill each day to assist his thyroid. His eyesight and hearing are completely normal. He is testing developmentally within his age range.

As of a week ago, he finally made it to 28 pounds. He's still a little small for his age, but he makes up for it with a lot of spunk.

He makes me laugh; he makes me cry; and he frequently frustrates and infuriates me. And he melts my heart when he looks at me and says, "I love you, Mommy."

Happy Birthday, my little miracle! God must have something really special in mind for you...


min said...

God Bless AJ. What a wonderful little miracle!
Lovely story Cindy, I'm so glad everyone is fine.

Jenny said...

Oh those heart just melts to see him so small.

He truly is a miracle.

Happy birthday, AJ.

And Happy birth day, cindy.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story.

mommiebear2 said...

You were so right, so many things you said did remind me of my little bug. Although I missed out on the helicopter ride, Im jealous! ;) How I wish I had more pictures of Taylor in the nicu but we were some broke ass parents so the ones I do have are in his baby book. There is actually a song by Martina McBride called "God's Will" that I cry at every time I hear it and say that is Taylor's song.

Anonymous said...

Ok you should have had a warning sign on the subject line! I am at work and just had a break down, yes I had to dry off the desk before I could even type a response!
Ok...Happy Birthday AJ! I can't believe how far you have come. I still remember getting that phone call, you were going to have a 23 weeker. I am so happy everything turned out well for you and your family.


AJsMom said...

It helped more than you know to have you come to the hospital. It was comforting to know that someone else knew what I was feeling.

We are all very lucky women to have such great children in our lives.

Margaret said...

I love it!!! He's a little miracle!

But I went to a OB/GYN friend? A male??? I don't think I would ever let a friend see that side of me. :)

Stephanie said...

You and James really should write a book about your adorable little miracle!!!

He truly is a perfect little gift!

AJsMom said...

Margaret: It was very weird, but at the time that was my only real option. I had to get used to it. Is it really better to have a complete stranger?!

James said...

I distinctly remember that last picture of AJ looking better at one time. I don't know what happened. :D