October 12, 2017

My life-threatening surgery after having Hunter – a miracle.

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DESTINATION 1ST BIRTHDAY

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BABY GIRL NURSERY
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Hunter with Adam, after I had my surgery  

I have been reflecting a lot on my first pregnancy and labour this past week, as this pregnancy comes to an end. I am 38 weeks and know my darling boy will be in our arms so soon. I mentioned in Hunter’s birth story (read here), my pregnancy was pretty smooth sailing expect for vomiting everyday and a scare with my heart in the third trimester. Similarly with this pregnancy, all smooth sailing until I had my scare at 32 weeks with haemorrhaging and now in pre-labour for 2 weeks, back inflammation and agonising pain. I just think, myself and the third trimester aren’t friends. I am praying my delivery is as beautiful, magical and peaceful as it was with Hunter. We will know really soon.

As I reflect, I’ve mentioned that, my labour was utterly beautiful with H, but 6 days after having him I had major life threatening stomach surgery. I left this section out of my birth story because it didn’t have anything to do with my amazing labour I had with H. So I wanted to keep it seperate, so I thought a seperate blog would be best.

A little history….
If you have followed my journey, a lot of you would know I have had a chronic undiagnosed illness for 20 years. It wasn’t until a few weeks before I met my hubby, that I was finally diagnosed and started treatment for Lyme Disease. I have had multiple, invasive surgeries over my life time. Multiple brain blocks having thick needles inserted into my skull whilst being awake, 4 hour procedure to extract fluid from my spine (excruciating to say the least), and multiple operations and procedures – the list goes on. So I am good friends with the surgical ward, cannulas and anaesthetists. Being treated for Lyme was definately difficult and painful but I had a diagnosis which really helped with my treatment (anyone can tell you who has had something undiagnosed for so long, it can make you go a little crazy). Most people didn’t know I was on treatment, I hid it well. I was on intensive chronic Lyme treatment for 18 months. 5 months before I got married (6months before I fell pregnant with H) I was in remission – the gruelling treatment had worked! As I had 3 co-infections along with my Lyme and an extremely low immune system due to being ill for so many years, the treatment was intense. It is likened to HIV Aids treatment, the treatment is as invasive. Without going into too much detail in this blog, I would vomit 3-5 times daily throughout the whole treatment (18months) and once in remission for the next 6 months it was probably 1-2 times daily. As gross as it sounds, vomiting became second nature. Yes I hated it, yes I was embarrassed – but I knew I was getting better, I could see my disease starting to heal.

Pregnancy with Hunter…
When I fell pregnant with Hunter, the vomiting just got worst due to pregnancy. A combination of the after effects of the Lyme treatment, being pregnant and having severe morning sickness and later on finding out what was happening to my stomach all caused the constant vomiting. During the pregnancy, we just assumed it was the morning sickness, plus me being so used to vomiting, I never made it an issue. Also during this time I was in grief with the loss of my Mother, so it was the least of my worries. 

Towards the end of the pregnancy…
The last week of my pregnancy with H, I really couldn’t get any food down. A few days before he arrived, I did start to vomit a lot of bile (something that wasn’t too unusual for me) but I did notice the vomiting started to get a lot worst (at least 6-8 times a day without any food going down). I pushed on through, and had a beautiful labour with Hunter. Only 3 pushes and he was out (possibly a miracle and a reason why I am still here).

After my baby boy arrived….
After Hunter came along, the vomiting continued, but had calmed down a bit. Maybe only twice day (again, something I was so used to). Also let me add, my doctors always had said to me, even after treatment of Lyme, it may take years or may never go, due to the harsh affects it has on your organs. So I never really worried. Yes it was so annoying and frustrating but I tried to not let it get to me. So I had Hunter on the Monday and we were discharged on the Friday.

Going home….
We got home early afternoon and my milk still hadn’t come in. I was breastfeeding ever hour and starting to get really exhausted – newborn haze but also with the vomiting. I started to vomit blood and huge clots. I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t even hold Hunter, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t breathe. I just kept saying to myself, I need to just sleep and I will be ok in the morning. I also was so determined to breast feed, I wouldn’t let hubby give H, any formula, so I just kept feeding and then tried to sleep in between. It got to around 10pm and my milk came in! So I expressed a few bottles (I knew I was going to have to go into hospital again).

Leaving Hunter – 4 days old…
This was the second hardest thing I had to do (the hardest thing is coming up). I felt terrible. I felt like I was the worst mother in the world. I felt like I was abandoning him, I felt like I was a failure, I felt like I had failed him. I was so disappointed with myself, 4 days in, all I wanted to be like was my amazing mother and I had already felt like I had failed. I was so angry with my body. I was so upset, other people got to enjoy their newborn and I once again was back to the hospital – not knowing what the hell was going on with my body. My Dad was staying with us, so he drove me to hospital whilst Adam stayed at home with Hunter. I kept asking him to send me photos and videos of Hunter so I wouldn’t miss a thing. I desperately wanted to hold him. When Dad and I arrived at the hospital, breasts leaking with milk, it was a ghost town. Doctors and nurses coming in – poking and prodding me – all having no idea what was wrong with me AGAIN. What the actual fuck, I am going through this all again – stuck in emergency, cannulas coming out of every vein, but now my boobs leaking, and missing my son and husband desperately. Before it was just me, but now, I needed to live, I wasn’t going to let my son loose his Mother like I had just lost mine. Grief and recognition of mum not being there really hit me. Alone, cold, in a dark hospital bed. I could barely breathe, I couldn’t sit up as it hurt too much, and my beautiful Dad had to help me with my breast pump (something I had never used before), little lone say the word ‘breast’ in front of my dad. We were close but we just never spoke about sex, boobs, periods – never. It just made me want my mum even more. A beautiful midwife came down and helped me, thank God. I remember laying there, feeling so alone and asking – why do I have to experience pain every time I have happiness in my life?

The next 2 days…
Thank God for my obstetrician. He had no idea what was wrong with me and it had nothing to do with him but he admitted me under his name and called all his medical friends to try and get me some help. He checked on me the whole time I was in hospital even when I wasn’t his patient. If it wasn’t for him admitting me, I may not be here today.

The next 2 days felt like 2 months. Thank God, as soon as I was admitted early Saturday morning, Hunter and Adam were allowed to be with me. I was able to hold and breast feed my little boy. I was still vomiting bucket loads (no joke) of blood, very difficult breathing, excruciating pain but hubby latched Hunter on for me and did everything for us. My true angel on Earth. I felt so bad, this is how my perfect little boy had to spend his first weeks of life – in hospital because of me. We should of been home as a family of three. Anyway after about 5 different doctors saw me, not knowing what was wrong (every new
nurse on a shift giving me their diagnosis), I thought, this is it, I am not going home – ever. Sunday morning came and it was Anzac Day – so the long weekend. My OB said I don’t like your chances of any doctors coming in until at least Tuesday. I thought, I cannot do it anymore. I hadn’t eaten in over two weeks, I hadn’t got water or even ice down in 3 days, I had been through 10hours of labour and was on 1 hour sleep for the past week and I was still breastfeeding (I was not giving up, I already felt like I had failed my son, I didn’t know if I would be here much longer, I needed him to have my milk – I would do anything for him). I was exhausted, weak, in excruciating pain and literally dying of thirst. I just wanted water but I couldn’t. I watched my Dad (who had said to me, when mum had died, that mum told him in a dream, John, it is your turn now, you have to protect and look after our babies). That he did. He never left the hospital. He slept in a chair next to me, helped Adam with Hunter, and just prayed next me. My uncle and brother were outside my door all day long too.. They all looked broken. I could see my Dad’s heart breaking. I now understand what it must of been like, watching your daughter, as I now have a son, just drifting away.
I remember closing my eyes that Sunday morning and praying to Mum. I just saw her face which brought me a sense of calm. Adam had taken Hunter up to the nursery (I was in the surgical ward so different part in the hospital), he had to take H there, wash him, and take my expressed breast milk to the fridge. The midwives were amazing helping us out when they could, even though I wasn’t even in their ward. I was feeding every 1-2hours then expressing straight after just in case something happened – I wanted a supply for him. So Dad and I sat there, both praying. A few moments later in walks a young energetic surgeon. Dad and I looked at each other and straight away go – do we know you? We both felt like we had met her before (but neither of us had). She was so positive, gentle and comforting. Adam came back with Hunter and she asked if she could hold Hunter. She was so gentle and loving with him and said she had two little ones at home. After making us feel so comfortable, she gently patted me on the arm and said “sweetheart, I’ve looked at your X-rays, it doesn’t look good”. I am preparing the operating room as we speak, I will operate within the next 30 minutes. She said, it was the worst day for the hospital in decades as there had been so many accidents and all the emergency theatres had been booked out till Monday morning, she said she squeezed me in and got one of the best surgeons who had been working in emergency for 30 years to come in and assist her. She said she couldn’t tell me any details as she wasn’t sure until she opened me up and looked at my stomach. She just kept saying we need to take you in now, if I leave it an hour longer, you won’t be here. She said I will see you in theatre in less than 30 minutes. She cuddled Hunter one more time and gave me a big hug and said I will do possibly everything I can. She left the room and Dad and I looked at each other and said how do we know her. We didn’t know her. We 100% believe she was sent to me from Mum. It was Mum I could see in her, making me feel comfortable.

Saying goodbye…
This was the hardest thing. I had to say goodbye to my precious newborn baby.. Why why why! Why couldn’t I just enjoy him, enjoy the beginning, enjoy it all. Hadn’t I been through enough in my life. I cuddled him so tight but I just wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again. I looked at my husband who just was crying uncontrollably. A man who didn’t show emotion much, was trying to hold it together but just couldn’t. I was broken. I thought I am never going to see my darling ever again. I just wanted to hold him forever and not let go. This was worst than any physical pain I had endured, I suddenly didn’t even care about being thirsty.

When I went into surgery I met the team (there was about 15 doctors and nurses). Each came up to me and said congratulations on my baby. Every single one of them, looked familiar. It was just Mum I could see in them all – she never left my side. I had all these doctors, all giving me hugs saying they will do the very best they can. I just closed my eyes and meditated before going in. Mum was with me every step of the way. Into the cold sterile surgical room I went. Last thing I remember was the mask going over my face and I was out. Surgery was 5 hours. (Let’s put this into perspective babies are delivered during a C section in a 10-15 minute surgery).

​Recovery….
I woke up in my room. It was the early hours of Monday morning. Adam by my side, Hunter in the cot. I was alive! Adam held me and we just cried. I instantly asked how Hunter was and Adam said perfect. Adam said he had put the breast pump on me during recovery and got more milk for him (I had no idea) what a frickin champ my hubby is! I still couldn’t sit up, I had a huge bag/bubble (the size of two large mangoes) coming out of my stomach. It went from just under my breasts to my waist. I had cords coming out of me and about 4 cannulas in. The surgeon came in not long after I woke up. She explained the surgery and why it took so long. She said in her medical career and all her assisting surgeons (30+ experience), had never seen a stomach lining as thin as mine. I had a tear in my stomach and it was about to burst. If it had burst I would of died, if it had torn more, I would have been in hospital for 12 months as she would have to have attached it to my esophogus. She said we still aren’t sure on recovery, it still was paper thin and would take 6-12months to heal (never really knowing unless you open me back up again – X-ray or ultrasound can’t pick it up clearly). She said it would of been caused by my years and years of vomiting, it just got thinner and thinner. She said I was so lucky (a miracle) it didn’t burst during labour when I was pushing. It was a miracle. I now know why my mum was taken from me. She brought these angels on Earth to help me. If it wasn’t for her protecting me, I am not sure I would of been here. The surgeon said, if she had left it 30 more minutes, it would of burst.

I had to remain on a drip for three more days (I still breastfed every 1-2 hours and expressed) with the bubble coming out of my stomach (that was there to collect fluid so there was no pressure going into my stomach). Adam had to do everything for Hunter and continued to latch him onto me. After three days, I was allowed ice, not water but sucked on ice. Forget a cheese burger or Nutella, this was the best thing I had ever tasted!!! Then after two days I started on sipping water. I was on a liquid diet for 6 weeks and then purée for another 6 weeks then gradually introducing solids. Before we left the hospital to come home they had to remove that bubble bag. It was the strangest thing ever. It was a piece of tubing, 5 metres long, which was wrapped inside of me. A nurse came in, and slowly pulled it out of my stomach as I was just laying there. It was like a long snake was getting pulled out of me. Extremely bizarre.

Enjoying our family of three…
When we got home, it was tough, not eating (being on a liquid diet), breastfeeding every 2 hours (Hunter was little so needed a lot of feeds) and he wasn’t a good sleeper. I had little energy and was really exhausted. But we got through it. We got though it together. I fell in love with my husband a million times over, developed a deeper bond with my father, appreciated every cry, wriggle, pooey nappy, sleepless night and I accepted my mother’s death – there was a silver lining as she always said. I was proud of myself for breast feeding and continuing till he was 12months, I was proud of my body, my marriage. We got through it, nothing can shake us. I get disheartened when people complain about little tiny things, especially when I reflect on what we have been through but I
make peace with the fact that, these tiny things to them, are big things for them as this was our big thing.

​I am now ready to give birth to our second child – any day now. I am excited to hold him in my arms. I haven’t vomited again since my surgery. Am I a little anxious that, with happiness I seem to get sorrow? Yes. Can I control it or will I let it dictate my life? No. I am grateful for my life, my mother, my husband, my son, the surgeon, my family, God, and everything we have achieved. Everything happens for a reason and makes me who I am, the daughter, the wife, the sister, the friend and mother I am.

XOXO

love + grace

Jo 
xx

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