In the third trimester of pregnancy, you're supposed to do regular kick counts and should find the baby kicking about fifteen times a day.
Claire usually kicked so often that there was really no need for official kick counts. However, on Sunday, the last day of Adam's spring break, I didn't feel very many kicks. We had a busy day though, so I figured I just hadn't noticed.
The next day, Monday, I still didn't feel Claire's usual kicking and I started to worry. After dinner that night, Adam and I tried everything we could think of to get Claire to move. I had a caffeinated drink and laid down on the couch while we prodded my belly. We felt a few faint kicks, but not enough to ease our worry. We went to bed and resolved to call the doctor first thing in the morning.
When we woke up on Tuesday, I could feel Claire hiccuping, which made us second-guess the previous night's decision to give the doctor a call. Even though we felt a little silly, I went ahead and told the obstetrician about our situation.
The doctor asked us to head over the birth center at the hospital to spend a few hours hooked up to a fetal monitor. My sister, who's a nursing student, happened to give me a call as we were getting ready to leave. She told me that during her clinical over the weekend, a woman had come in with the same situation. It turned out the her baby wasn't kicking too often because it was really big! So, we headed to the hospital fully prepared to hear that we were having a huge baby.
When we got into a triage room at the birth center, the nurse was very confused as to why we had been sent there. She thought we really should have been sent to the fetal monitoring department instead. She didn't even have me change into a gown. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor and we immediately heard Claire's heart thumping away.
A few minutes later, a resident came in and told us the pattern of Claire's heart rate wasn't what they'd like. She checked my cervix and found me dilated to a two. She said that I might be giving birth today and it might be by cesarean.
A few minutes after that, the resident came in again and told us that a cesarean was becoming the more likely option. She then came in a third time and said that a cesarean was definitely where we were headed.
Everything started happening at once. An anesthesiologist came in to ask me all sorts of questions in preparation for my epidural. A nurse started removing my clothes and helping me into a gown. All of a sudden, I was wheeled out of the room. They left Adam behind to change into scrubs and said they'd come back for him in a minute.
As they were prepping me for surgery in the operating room, everyone kept remarking on how calm I was. I don't know why I wasn't more nervous. I guess because they hadn't really let on how scary the situation was. I was just excited to meet our baby.
I did start to panic when Adam didn't come in right away. I remember asking for my husband repeatedly and picturing him all alone in the triage room. After what felt like an eternity, I finally saw Adam. He held my hand and we just stared at each other in shock.
No one in the operating room said anything to us during the surgery. We heard a few small cries in the background and figured that must be our baby. The anesthesiologist eventually came over to check on me and we asked him if the baby was a boy or girl. He informed us that it was girl. Adam asked if he could see her, but the anesthesiologist said no. That's when we knew that something was really wrong. We started to pray the Hail Mary over and over again.
The pediatrician eventually came over. She told us that Claire was not getting enough oxygen, so they'd put a breathing tube in. She also said Claire was very anemic and would need a blood transfusion. We got a glimpse of her as they whisked her off the NICU. She wasn't pink like most newborns are. Her skin was just as pale as ours.
The obstetrician came over next to explain that I'd had a placental abruption. 25% of the placenta had detached from the uterine wall. Normally the mom would start bleeding when this happens, but Claire's decreased movement and unusual heart rate were the only signs that she was in distress. The obstetrician also explained that my placenta looked really strange, like the placenta of someone who did drugs during pregnancy. Obviously, this wasn't the case for me, so they sent the placenta to pathology for more information.
When I got settled into my room on the postpartum floor, the NICU let us know that they'd call when Claire was stable and we could see her. Our friends, Tim and Abigail, came to keep us company while we waited. They did an awesome job keeping our minds off things. Claire was born at eight after ten in the morning. At two afternoon, the NICU finally called. I had to be on bed rest for six hours after the c-section, but Adam headed over to visit her and take some pictures for me. At four in the afternoon, I got to see our baby. Father Josh from the Newman Center joined us to give her a blessing.
When we visited her again later that evening, a neonatologist took us aside to explain the whole story. Claire had something called a maternal fetal hemorrhage. For some unknown reason, she had been losing blood through her umbilical cord. Some of that blood had been going directly into my bloodstream. Some had been going into the placenta. A clot eventually built up in the placenta, which explained why it looked so strange. That clot caused the placental abruption.
They don't know exactly how long this was going on for, but it could have been happening for months. Claire was able to replace her blood at a remarkably quick rate, which is why she could move around so much and maintain a healthy heart rate for so long. However, she was eventually losing such a great amount of blood that her body couldn't replenish it fast enough. The average baby is born with a hemoglobin level of fifteen. Claire had a hemoglobin level of three, the minimum amount of blood required for survival.
At this point, her breathing was stable and she was receiving the blood transfusion. The neonatologist told us that he was very optimistic, but she wasn't out of the woods just yet.
We prayed with Claire for a long time and then went back to our room to cry for even longer.
By Wednesday morning, her blood transfusion was complete and her skin had gotten several shades pinker. The doctors told us that she'd had a very rough start, but she was going to be just fine.
On Thursday, she got her breathing tube out. On Friday, we got to hold her and feed her a bottle for the first time. Each day, more lines are removed and more machines are taken away.
Claire is one week old today. She's doing great and should be home with us really soon.
Her birthday was the happiest day of our lives, but also by far the most traumatic. Although we're still very emotional about it, we're trying not to dwell on what might have happened and focus on what did happen.
We're so thankful to live five minutes away from one of the best women's hospital in the country. We're so thankful to all the doctors and nurses that worked so hard to save our little girl's life. We're especially thankful for our amazing daughter and our amazing God watching over her.