Thursday, March 26, 2015

Feels Like Forever

There is a weird sensation that happens when you have a baby. They have been inside you for all of their existence, and then suddenly they are on the outside of you, and you feel you are not whole anymore. You want to be with the baby, and hold the baby, and just be near the baby at all times. It may be due to hormones, or just how God designed it, or maybe it is just me, and no one else feels like that, but this was a very real and powerful feeling.
When Emma was born, I remember just wanting to hold her all the time. The nurses would take her to get her hearing checked, or check her bilirubin levels, and it felt like an eternity until she was back.
Ezra was gone. He was in the best place he could be, with the best doctors and nurses making sure he would thrive in the world that came too soon for him. I knew this, but it didn't make the separation any easier. Josh was so good at sending me pictures and using FaceTime so I could see Ezra, and he updated me regularly on all that was going on with his progress. I in turn told all my nurses, as Ezra became quite the popular little guy over here!
We had friends who delivered their own little boy very early, and were super helpful with helping us navigate this new world of the NICU. They helped set up a page on Facebook to update everyone on Ezra's progress so they could be praying for him. They even delivered my milk to Ezra at the other hospital! What a blessing!
When I was moved out of the ICU into the women and newborn unit, I was starting to feel better. I was a long ways from going home (I still couldn't even walk, or even stand up! That magnesium sulfate is brutal!) but definitely improving! I was so very thankful my twin sister Tomesia cold come stay with me.
That is actually a really cool part of this story. Tomesia's kids have year round school in the district they attend. About two months before any of this crazy stuff happened, Tomesia and I were talking. We had planned for her and the kids to come up for a visit in the middle of the week. They were off school then, and she took some time off work. It was going to be so fun! We planned all these fun fall activities to do, and she and the kids were going to spend time with us and with our parents.
Fast forward to Ezra's birth; she just happened to come up at the exact time I needed help. if she arrived a day before, I would have been in the ICU and not even known she was there. She came and stayed with me in the hospital, sleeping on those uncomfortable chairs, bringing me my pump parts and washing them after, walking my milk down to the fridge, reminding me to order my meals, listening to me cry over and over again, opening and closing the blinds, getting me blankets and fans when my hormones were surging, etc. Tomesia took great care of me, and my parents spend the days with her children. It definitely wasn't the visit we planned, but I was so thankful she was there.
While I was recovering in the hospital, and Josh was at St. Joe's with Ezra in the NICU, Josh's mom took care of the home front, along with many, many helpers. We had people bring us meals, come help with laundry and cleaning, running carpool for us, etc. There was no way we would have survived without all the help from our families and friends, and church family. I don't think I will ever know all that went on while I was gone, but I am so very thankful. There is something so special in knowing that no matter what happens to me, I know my family will be well cared for.
Josh's mom took the girls to see Ezra. I asked them all what they thought of the whole experience. They said they just couldn't believe how small he was, and they wanted to hold him. Those were my thoughts too! I am glad they got to see him, and I was hoping to be able to see him myself!
The day arrived for me to finally be discharged. I loved those nurses so much, but I couldn't think of anything better than leaving! 
During my nine day stay in the hospital, on top of all my exciting medical problems, I got a horrendous stiff neck. It made me so miserable, that there was a point I was taking my pain killers for my neck, and not my c-section! So on the day that I had been waiting for, the day I could make a break for it and go see my baby, I first had to head to the chiropractor. I wanted to be able to hold him if they would let me, and with the pain I was in, I knew that wouldn't be possible.
With all the forms signed, my parents came to pick me up, and I was a free woman! They took me to the chiropractor, and swing by subway for food, and the pharmacy for all the blood pressure meds I would be on. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication between the hospital and the pharmacy, and they did not have all the pills I needed. This normally wouldn't phase me, I would just skip it for a day, and if it was just pain meds, I would have. They had me on 300mg of Labatelol 4x's daily and 25 mg Hydralazine 4x's daily! The sheer amount of blood pressure pills they had me on just so I could leave the hospital was necessary though, so we had to wait some more! AHHH! I just wanted to see my baby boy!
The hang up at the pharmacy along with a strict pumping schedule I had to adhere to, and Friday night traffic heading towards Ann Arbor made for the longest day ever, but we finally arrived at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, my Ezra's first home.
I knew I missed Josh, but I didn't realize how very much until I saw him on the curb waiting for us to pull up, wheelchair in hand. There was my darling, my love, and I held onto him and didn't want to let go! A sweep of emotions took me, and I sobbed, and ugly cried, right at the front entrance of this hospital, and I didn't care. I am sure I was a mess.
Josh wheeled me to the fourth floor, and after getting my picture taken for a badge, and some paperwork filled out to prove I was indeed the mother, they buzzed me in.
I was suddenly very aware of how little I really knew. Josh was a pro already, showing me the sink, and how to scrub in, where to wash my phone, where our son's isolette was located.
Josh wheeled me over and Nurse Bethie was there. She said they held off doing "six o'clock cares" for me. I didn't even know what that was. Josh helped me up and I stood looking into this plastic box that was my son's whole world. I had no idea he was this small. All the pictures Josh took were nice and close up, so I didn't get an idea of how very tiny he was.
"Do you want to do kangaroo care?" Bethie asked. 
You mean I can hold him?!?!?
"YES!!!" I said emphatically.
This was the moment I was waiting for! They brought me warm blankets, as I took off my top, and they placed this tiny little human on my chest. So many wires were hanging off this little one who weighed less than 1/3 of a gallon of milk!
He was so warm, and as he lay in my arms, I instantly felt calm, and right where I needed to be.
"He's never done that, Tamara!" Josh said.
"What is he doing?"
"He is still, and he has a smile on his face."
Mommy is here, Ezra. Mommy's got you.

The girls' first glimpse of their tiny brother.

Josh said they squealed with delight!

This rainbow was outside my window when I was moved to the women and newborn floor. God used a rainbow as a reminder He would never flood the earth again, and He used it that day to remind me that He was in control of this, and He never lost control. He was not surprised by any of this, and I can trust Him through this storm in my life, no matter the outcome.

Ezra getting a tan! He needed some phototherapy to help his bilirubin levels improve.

Josh sent me this picture and I couldn't stop looking at it! He looked SO big and healthy all dressed up in clothes. He was SWIMMING in those preemie clothes. ha ha!

I'm getting discharged from the hospital!!!

Holding my baby boy!

Ezra the first time I held him. He was happy to see me. 

Seriously, the cutest little peanut!

Josh took me to see a floor on the hospital he would frequent as he prayed. Quite the view!

This is the way Ezra grew. So many little things to pump into his tiny body, as he was not ready to enter the world so early. Not as good as the womb, but they sure helped him grow!

This was Ezra's first home, and Josh and I both grew to love that hospital, and the amazing staff in the NICU.

He's so tiny and fuzzy!

His perfect little hands.

"Hi momma. I am glad you finally got here. I've got so much to tell you! Daddy and I have had an exciting time here!"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Holding on to Truth

When I came to, I was in recovery in what felt like a dark basement. A doctor was putting in an arterial line in so they could measure my blood pressure in real-time (rather than by intermittent measurement). I was really groggy, and I just wanted to see my baby.  I needed to see him and know he was okay. I have to admit that is part of my story I don't remember. I relied on what my nurse Linda ( now a dear friend) and Josh recalled of this time. It is still very hard for me to not be able to remember Ezra's birth (because I wasn't awake!) or even the first time I saw him. These are moments I treasure with each of my children, and hold them dear to my heart.  I am so thankful for a husband and Linda who have helped me peace the story together.
While I was coming to in the recovery room, Josh was with our tiny little boy. 
Our little boy came out crying! This is something that is a miracle in itself. He took his first breath! I am so thankful God protected his tiny lungs, and gave wisdom to my doctor to know to give the steroid shots to me to help mature his lungs. The shots worked. My boy could breathe! 
Josh cut the cord. "What's his name?" they asked.
We had not come up with a name yet. We still had nine weeks, or so we thought.  Josh knew how important it was to me that he had a name before he left the hospital, and he knew which names I liked, so he named him. Our little tiny life was now Ezra Henry.  Ezra means help. We needed help if we were going to get through this. Very fitting indeed. Henry means strong leader in the home. From the moment he was born he started taking the lead, directing our lives in ways we never imagined. Turns out, Ezra Henry is the perfect name for him.
They brought Ezra to me right before they left on the ambulance.  I couldn't really see him. He was in a little traveling box (Josh called the pizza oven. ha ha) and I couldn't sit up yet after the surgery.  My eyesight was poor.  Everything was so blurry. I reached in and touched a foot. At least I think I did. I don't remember.
They were off, and I was moved to the ICU. 
Linda had taken pictures of Ezra and printed them out for me. She taped them up along my bed rails, and this was a huge source of strength for me in the days ahead. She may never know how much that meant to me.  
The time spent in the ICU was the hardest in my life. I felt so sick and alone. I was still on magnesium sulfate, as well as hefty doses of hydralazine and labetelol. It was like time was going in slow motion. I felt like the whole hospital was vibrating, and there was a constant pounding in my ears. I couldn't see well at all, and was attached to so many things.  I had pressure cuffs on both my legs so I wouldn't get blood clots, a blood pressure cuff on my arm going off every five minutes, and a breast pump attached to me every few hours (I could not hold it on my own) so my milk would come in.
I remember begging God to heal me so I could see my son, and to keep him safe. 
As I was lying in the bed all alone, my uterus empty, my arms empty, feeling so utterly betrayed by my own body, my faith was being tested. 
All these questions kept coming, and then the answers. It was like a battle in my mind to hold onto the truth I knew.
How could God allow this to happen?
Why wouldn't He just heal my body so I could see my baby?
Didn't we go through enough with Josie?

I love you, Tamara. I am so much bigger than this. You just can't see it.
Do I owe you an explanation for what I allow and don't allow?
Don't you know Me at all yet?

Then I just felt shame.

I thought of a very dear friend of mine who just lost her baby. How dare I take the gift of Ezra's life with anything but gratitude. Haven't I learned anything from the four we lost?
I thought of Job in the Bible, and remembered how God in chapter 38 where He says "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them." I always imagined God yelling at Job in sort of a "How DARE you!" sort of way. It was not like that for me. It was more of a gentle reminder. 
I am so thankful for His Word, and His faithfulness to speak to me through it. Being reminded of my loving Heavenly Father is the only thing that got me through these dark days. 
I had an amazing nurse in the ICU.  Honestly, all my nurses were wonderful. I felt at times as though angels were ministering to me, as they helped bathe me, and give me little sponges of water to suck on. Debbie was a nurse who stayed with me at all times. I was her only patient and anytime I was awake, she was right there next to me. She read to me the cards my children made me (I couldn't get my eyes to focus enough to read) and she would help hold my phone so I could talk to Josh who was with Ezra. Of course I probably made no sense at all! Debbie hugged me as I sobbed and would tell me how the weather was outside, and if I had any visitors. She was amazing, and made my days bearable. I was sad to leave her when I transferred to the mother and newborn unit a few days later, but I was happy to be getting better!
Josh has shared his journey through this time on our ministry blog here. I encourage you to check out the posts (I think there are 7!), as he had the more exciting part of the story: Ezra! 
Very soon (but not soon enough!) I would get to be with my son!

Ezra is born! This is his first picture. He cried for everyone. Had to show off those working lungs!

This is the first time I saw his face, in this picture. I am so thankful Linda took these! I thought he looked like a tiny kitten or a baby squirrel.

Ezra was intubated, but not for long!

The doctors and nurses took great care of our baby as they prepared him for his first road trip!

Ezra was SO tiny. Look at the size of Josh's hand next to him. Our little miracle!

This is the first time I "saw" him. Ezra is in the "pizza oven" and I am reaching in to touch him. A few things come to mind when I see this picture. First, I am sad that this was the only time I touched him for five days. Second, I wish I could remember this more. Third, look how very swollen my hand and arm was! Severe swelling is another symptom of pre-eclampsia.

Ezra in his new "home" at the NICU of St. Joseph Mercy in Ypsilanti, MI. Daddy is learning how to care for his tiny little guy while mommy gets better.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Drowning in the Storm

  Throughout my weekend of bed rest in the hospital, I got progressively worse. My blood pressure continued to climb. They now wouldn't even let me move from my left side at all. I still was doing the urine test to check my protein levels, but was forced to use a bedpan now. 
My doctor made a very wise decision at this moment that I feel was one of the factors in saving Ezra's life. He gave me a shot of steroids to help develop baby's lungs "just in case". I got one on Friday, and 24 hours later a second one. He wasn't on call this weekend, and I would miss him. He has delivered three of my other four kiddos, and knows me and my case well. 
The weekend was a very long one for myself. I missed Emma and Addie's soccer games. There was a game night we planned at our house that we had to cancel. I was still not seeing the seriousness of it all, and was irritated that my schedule had to keep changing. 
Sunday morning Josh sent me a text as they were getting ready to go to church of cute little Isaac all dressed up. I made some joke to him about keeping his phone on in case I needed him. I didn't actually think I would. 
Not long after I was talking with Josh the doctor came in. 
"We have the results of your urine test. You have 600 grams of protein in your urine, and your blood pressure is not responding to medications. We need to transfer you to a hospital that is equipped to deliver this baby."
Wait, what??? I am only 31 weeks and 3 days along? That is TOO early! I need to stay pregnant! I need my husband!
I called Josh but the phone just rang and rang. I left a voicemail. I texted him to call me ASAP. I called again and again. The nurses are now asking me what hospital I wanted to be transferred to, and I couldn't even get a hold of Josh. I learned later that it was praise and worship music at church that was too loud he couldn't hear his phone ring. 
I texted four people at church and asked them to find Josh and tell him to call me. When the song was over, Josh looked down from his phone and saw he had six missed calls from me!
He finally called back. 
"Honey, get here now! They want to transfer me!"
I am a little unclear on the details, but I know that Josh was able to get the kids and come to the hospital. He made arrangements with our dear friend Esther to watch the kids so he could come to Ann Arbor with me. 
I know that my church family stopped the service to pray for me and my unborn son. We surely needed it!
My blood pressure was 226/146! The doctors in Ann Arbor needed it to get lower before I traveled. They put me of magnesium sulfate and apresoline because my blood pressure had to be down to 160 before I could travel. They got it down to 153/80, and they started to load me onto the ambulance. This is when I started having pulmonary edema. I was literally drowning in my own fluid! I don't know if it was from the very high blood pressure or from the magnesium sulfate but my pulse ox went down to 84%! My lungs were filling with fluid! They now declared me too unstable to travel and wheeled me back in the hospital to have an emergency C-section. 
The nurse had to call Josh who was already on his way to Ann Arbor, and he turned around as fast as he could. 
They gave me Lasix and a breathing treatment. I put out 2400cc of fluid before the c-section and another 800 as well on the operating table.
They quickly prepped me for surgery. The doctor said a spinal would be fine, which meant that Josh could be there for the birth of our son. As the anesthesiologist put the needle in my back, I tried to remain calm. Something didn't seem right. This was my fifth c-section and I always had to have someone help me scoot back on the table but this time I could do it on my own. I I lay down and was strapped down and the doctor started. 
"I can feel you!" I said. 
They reassured me that I would feel lots of pressure. 
"It's not pressure, I feel you cutting into me!" I said, with a little more panic in my voice. 
"We have to get this baby out now!" the doctor said. 
The last thing I remember was screaming "It hurts!!!" through the mask and hearing Josh say "Oh no, Tamara. Oh no, honey!" Then I was asleep. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Storm's A Comin!

On a Wednesday night back in early October I had a headache. Dinner was just on the table, and the girls were extra chatty as they are every Wednesday evening, excited to go to AWANA that night. I took some Tylenol and was out the door, chauffeuring them and having a coffee date with my friend Mindy. Once everyone was home and tucked in bed, I noticed my head was still throbbing. I was hoping a good night sleep would help. 
I woke up Thursday morning with my headache still there, but significantly better, so I took some more Tylenol and was off to the office. I was feeling a little behind in my work with all the time I missed with Josie out of school because of her burn, so I dove right in. After staring at a computer screen for a few hours, my headache was much worse. I decided I would call the doctor to be on the safe side. The office was closed for lunch and so I decided I would eat some lunch too. The dining hall was probably not the best option (with all the noise) so I had a quick lunch and went home to put Isaac down for a nap. 
I told Josh at lunch that I was going to call the doctor again after I put Ike down, and to be on alert that I may need to go in for an appointment, so he should try and keep his schedule a little loose. He was heading into a meeting at that time, and told me to just let him know. 
When I got ahold of the doctor, they told me to go into labor and delivery to get checked out. I felt so foolish. It was just a headache. It wasn't horrible. It didn't effect my vision, and I wasn't having contractions or anything. I called Josh to let him know he would have to cut the meeting short. He came home to be with Isaac and I walked out the door. "I'm sure it's nothing honey. I just want to be careful. I will be back before dinner."
I walked into the triage room on the fourth floor. They asked me why I was there as they took my vitals. I told them of my headache that wouldn't go away. That no, I wasn't seeing spots, and no, I didn't have any abnormal swelling. The cuff stops squeezing my arm. "Um, you aren't going anywhere until we get this BP down." My blood pressure when I checked in was 227/127. Yikes!
They hooked me up to a monitor for the baby's heartrate, one to measure contractions (I wasn't having any), and a blood pressure cuff that was going off every 30 minutes. One nurse had me lie on my side, another said it was more accurate to have me sitting up. Nothing was actually bringing it down though. 
"We are going to have to admit you. We will run some blood tests and a urine test and see how you are doing."
I snapped a picture of my belly all hooked up to monitors and sent it to Josh. "I may be here a while. Can you get dinner going and get Emma a ride home from soccer?"
During this whole time, I really am pretty clueless as to how bad things were. I knew they said my blood pressure was high, but I didn't realize that it was dangerously high. I heard of preeclampsia before, but didn't really know much about it. Anyways, I felt fine everywhere except this headache. 
They place me in a room with a nice bed directly across from the nurses station. Even though this is baby number 5, I had them all by csection. I had never been in a labor room. My bed had these big blue pads being strapped to the rails. Was this standard? I didn't know they were putting the pads on my bed to protect me if I had a seizure. 
I really don't know why I was so unaware of how serious this was. Maybe the nurses were trying to protect me by not letting me stress and worry. Maybe my brain wasn't working at full capacity because of how sick I was. I just know that as I was lying there in bed, I was worried they may put me on bedrest. I don't know how we would handle bedrest! We still have burn clinic appointments every other day for Josie, plus two girls in soccer, and a toddler! Little did I know that bedrest is something I would look back at and long for. I had no idea what lied ahead. 

This is the picture I texted Josh, and incidentally the last picture I have of me pregnant. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Welcome Ezra Henry

I have been trying for a while now to write a post on the birth of my newest son, Ezra. I just haven't been able to put it into words yet. It was pretty traumatic for me, and I am still processing some of it.
In the meantime though, I want to shout to the world that he is here!
Arriving at 31 weeks and 3 days, little Ezra Henry Mathew was born on October 12th, weighing 3lbs 8oz and 16 inches long.
He has a long road to go before he can come home, but he is a fighter!

Here is the moment when I first got to hold my sweet, tiny little boy, five days after his birth.

I am so thankful for God's protection for my life, and the life of my son. Praise be to God!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

Today was a day we have been looking forward to for so long!!! Josie went back to school!
She had her morning burn clinic appointment and after she got bandaged, we headed over to her school. She actually squealed when we pulled into the parking lot! So adorable.
It's no wonder why she missed school so much. When we went to drop her off in class, kids were shouting her name in the hallway, and greeted her with lots of cheers (and a charging group of hugs her awesome teacher intercepted, and I was very grateful for!).
The class filled the board with sweet words, and fun drawings. Josie was really feeling the love!
Jo wanted to bring something for the class to let them know how much their care and concern meant to her these past weeks, so we brought in muffins. She was glad to be able to give something back, even though it was little.
I don't know if it was pregnancy hormones, or what, but I teared up as I said goodbye to my sweet girl. I know she is in good hands though, with a class that is excited for her to be back, and a teacher who cares for her like she is one of her own.
I can't thank everyone enough for your prayers for Josie. These past weeks have been quite a trial. We are grateful for a God who brought us through.
She will still have to see the burn clinic every other day until her burn is healed up, but this was a HUGE milestone!

Josie in front of her special board full of messages.

Josie and Miss Campbell. Josie told me today she was going to knock her over with the biggest hug. I'm glad she didn't actually knock her over, but she probably could have!

Monday, October 6, 2014

We Have Good News

We had a very eventful weekend in our home. Thankfully we all pulled through!
Sunday evening I went for a stroll with Isaac to just get out of the house and see some fall colors that I have only been able to enjoy through the window, or from people's Facebook pictures.
I only made it around the block and I had a horrible sharp pain on my side. It lingered for much longer than I was comfortable with, and I had to call Josh to come walk me home! So much for my stroll!
Anyhow, as I was walking I felt what can only be described as a pop on my upper right side of my abdomen, and then a warm sensation across my stomach, and relief from the pain. So weird, and slightly scary knowing that I had a bad gallbladder that I need removed after the baby comes.
I called the nurse hot line. I didn't want to go to the ER, since I was no longer in pain, but I was nervous because of the baby. I wasn't sure what to do. The nurse hot line told me to go to Labor and Delivery.
Meanwhile, Josh just called and learned he was to report for jury duty the next morning at 8am, and we had a burn clinic appointment for Josie at 8:45 am, and he is not sure what is going on with his wife. I think to say that it was a stressful evening for Josh would be an understatement. He may have an extra gray hair or two in his beard this morning. 
I felt silly being in Labor and Delivery for not really being in pain, no contractions, or other distressing pregnancy related things, just this weird side pain and popping. When I got there though, my BP was ridiculously high! They decided they did not care about the side pain and popping, but my blood pressure was going to keep me there for a while!
Long story short, my BP went down a sufficient amount, baby boy's kicks and heart rate were excellent, and I got home a little after midnight with a clean bill of health, and no idea what the weird pain was. I guess no news in this case was good news.
Now, onto our exciting news. I took Josie to the appointment this morning. She WALKED in (no crutches) FULLY CLOTHED (granted it was sweat pants, but that is fine with me!) and left with a note from her doctor saying that after her Wednesday appointment, she was okay to GO TO SCHOOL!!! What awesome answers to prayer from a God who sees the details! 
Tonight, Josie is sleeping upstairs in her room for the first time in weeks. She is excited at the idea of going back to school Wednesday, and we are too. She misses her teacher and friends so much!
I know that she is quickly on the way to full recovery, but I am going to miss hanging out with my Josie girl. She is a neat kid, and I have cherished the extra time I have had with her, and I know Josh has too! If only it was under happier circumstances!
Thank you all for praying for her! She still has a bit to go, but has made HUGE strides!

Josie spending some quality time with Isaac this morning. I love their special relationship!