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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Day We Became A Family

Disclaimer:  This is sure to be long..

On Saturday, August 21, I spent the day catching up with some of my best friends.  I met my brother for an early sushi lunch, met Ben for a late salad lunch, then met Jen and Lessa for a late dinner.  That night, the most painful experience of my life started about 2:30 am.  I jumped out of bed when my chest started hurting.  I don't mean that I kind of woke up with chest pain, I mean I physically jumped out of my bed, thinking "What the hell is wrong with me?!"  I had never had indigestion before in my life, so I had no idea that it really isn't supposed to be that bad.  I read a few articles online about home remedies and gave them a shot.  The one I read over and over again was a table spoon of baking soda in a couple of ounces of water.  I tried that along with a few others, and a few hours later, I tried it again.  The second time, I wasn't able to keep it down, so for the first time this entire pregnancy, I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

While I was throwing up, I assume I pulled a muscle in my shoulder/chest area.  For the next two hours, I thought I still had indigestion, but it was muscle pain instead.  I finally fell asleep about 7:30 that morning.  I spent the rest of Sunday in and out of bed with chest pain, soreness from throwing up, and what I thought was a migraine.

As it turns out, all of those symptoms are signs of pre-eclampsia, and I had no idea.

The migraine persisted on into Monday, as did the sore shoulder.  Again, I thought this was from getting sick Saturday night, so other than taking a bunch of Tylenol, and finally a few Aleve, I thought nothing of it.  On Tuesday morning, I woke up really excited about meeting my new doctor and getting to see KB again.  I went into Mom's room and mentioned that I still didn't feel well, and the migraine was still hanging about, on top of now having small contractions in my back.  She just told me to tell the doctor, and that was all that was mentioned.

I got to the doctor's office, and the nurse took me back for my vitals.  Sorry if this is too much information, but the first thing I noticed was that my urine was extremely dark.  I'm a clear urine kind of girl, so this was enough to raise my eyebrows.  Next, the nurse took my blood pressure, which has never been high a day in my life.  "Hmm.. Your blood pressure is really high" she says.  She tests it again, twice, and then looked at me like she was worried.  I mentioned the headaches and back pains, and she took note of it.

My very first appointment with Dr. Kellum went a little like this.  He walked in the room, and started chatting with me.  After a minute or two, he asked if I felt puffy in my face.  I didn't think so.  Then he asked if my legs felt swollen.  I didn't think that, either.  So then he proceeds to tell me that there was 4+ protein in my  urine, which is really not good, especially coupled with my high blood pressure.  I said "My mom got pre-eclamptic with me, so I've been worried about that this entire pregnancy."  His response was "You're definitely pre-eclamptic.. here are your options."  He went on to explain how he wanted me to have an ultrasound and then be admitted to L&D at Woman's, and they were going to run some tests.  If those numbers came back "wrong", then it was quite possible we'd have a baby by the end of the week.

I was shocked!  This pregnancy has been so easy for me!  I haven't had the slightest complication.. not even nausea!  My first question, of course, was about Jason.  I wanted to know if we would have enough time for Jason to be able to get home before he induced labor, IF it came to that.  He said he thought so, but it may not even be necessary.. wait to call him until we see the numbers at the hospital, he says.  Ok, so instead I began making my family phone calls.  Mom, Dad and Mammaw were all put on alert, and I went down for my ultrasound.  The first thing the tech mentioned was that my amniotic fluid was indeed low, and that wasn't good.  Then she went on to say that Katie Beth was measuring three weeks smaller than she should be, and was only weighing around 3.5 lbs, when she should have been closer to 5 lbs.  That's really not good.  At this point, I had a feeling I wouldn't be released from the hospital, so I called to have Mom meet me there.

I got admitted, and the nurse comes in to check my blood pressure.  180/96 is apparently very, very bad.  She took some blood, and then said she'd come back with the Dr.  Dr. Kellum came back around a bit later, and said that we didn't have days to wait on this baby (which translated to: Jason won't be here).  With my blood pressure steadily rising, and the amniotic fluid being low, he wanted to take her that day.  He gave me about 4 hours to get whoever I needed to the hospital.

About 30 minutes later, Dr. Kellum came in the room with a really serious look on his face.  He explained that I was no longer being diagnosed with Pre-eclampsia, or even Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (which is really bad in itself), but his new diagnosis was HELLP syndrome.
H- Hemolysis
EL - Elevated Liver Enzymes
LP - Low Platelets
So, this is really, really bad.  We're delivering in 30 minutes.  So, in a matter of 5 hours I have gone from "Hi, Dr. Kellum, nice to meet you, I have a pretty rotten headache" to "Oh, I'm about to be a mom."

I called Jason back, and he had been in touch with pretty much everyone in his command... at 4 in the morning.  Good times ;)  I gave my mom strict instructions to be on the phone with Jason while the baby was born, and they took me to surgery.  They had explained that because of my low platelets, they would not be able to keep me awake during surgery.  No spinal for me, straight to general anesthesia.  I was pretty sad that I wouldn't be able to see Katie Beth the minute she was born, but I didn't get much of a choice.  So, because I was going completely under, Mom couldn't come in the room with me.  Oh well.. at least now she will be able to be on the phone with Jason.

Katie Beth was born at 3:28 pm on Tuesday, August 24th.  One of the nurses took the phone from Mom and ran back into the room so he could hear Katie Beth crying.  He was actually able to hear her the same minute she was born, and that means a lot to me.

I woke up about 30 minutes later, and my first question was "How big is she?"  I was so scared for this baby girl.  I honestly remember thinking right before I fell asleep on the table that I didn't care about what happened to me, just please let that baby be ok.  When they told me she weighed 2 lbs and 11 oz, I started crying hysterically.  That is so small!!  The nurses assured me that she was perfectly healthy, just really small.  They said she had not needed oxygen at all, so that means her lungs were fully matured.  They told me that she came out screaming, which is also a good sign, and that Jason had been able to hear her.  All of that made me really happy, but then they brought her to me.  I can barely remember actually holding her for the first time, but I remember thinking that she looked like her Daddy.  Apparently everybody else thought so too.

This is what 10 lbs of extra water in my body looks like.  Not pretty.

The next 24 hours are a huge blur and seem more like a dream.  I was on Magnesium to bring my blood pressure down, so I wasn't allowed anything by mouth.  I turned into a very irritable girl because I wanted water so bad, but that pretty much didn't happen for the next 24 hours.  The nurse was nice enough to bring me some ice late the first night, and later the next day, but that was it.  The nurses were the best I could have asked for.. They were extremely patient with me, and I know I wasn't an easy patient.  I was just so mad that I couldn't have any water, and then that everybody else was getting to hang out with my baby and I wasn't.  By everybody, I really just mean Mom and Dad, since they were the only ones allowed to go back, but still... I was mad.

Aquarium Baby 
I finally got to see Katie Beth late on Wednesday.  I couldn't believe how incredibly small she was.. It was hard, but I was so happy to see her.  Later that night I got moved to my own room, and life became a little easier.  I got taken off all the medication, and was finally allowed some water!  This was reason for celebration, I tell you.  Broccoli cheese soup from McAllister's never tasted so good, and a shower never felt so good.  Well, except for that whole thing about how I was hardly able to stand, and Mom had to help me.. but it was nice anyway.

I was able to feed KB myself on Thursday  morning, and that was awesome.  I was finally fully "awake", so this is my first real memory of her.  Jason was flying in from Guam, and I couldn't wait to see him.  He got to the hospital about 6 pm, and we went straight to the NICU so Daddy could meet his baby girl.  Then we got my brother to pick up some Newk's for us :)

I was discharged on Saturday morning, and it has all been good since.  Katie Beth hasn't gained much weight yet, but she is back to her birth weight, which is good.  Her feedings increase every day, and she is up to 26 cc's of milk per feeding.  That's pretty incredible since last Tuesday her little body could only take about 2 cc's per feeding.  Jason is an amazing Daddy.  He feeds her, burps her, everything that I do.  We can't wait to have her home, but it's going to be a few weeks before she's ready for that.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I've been home for about 48 hours now, and it's been lovely.  The trip home was amazing!  Hats off to the 172nd Airlift Wing for making sure a girl flies comfortably!  I'm sure there are other flight crews that are just as hospitable and accommodating, they just haven't had a reason to take special care of me.  It definitely helps that these guys know my Dad and Uncle John.  They put me on the plane first, made sure I had a good spot, and then took me up into the cockpit for take off and landing.  Landing was possibly the coolest thing I've done in a while.  We were about 30 minutes out when they took me up, and it was about 8:30 at night.  That panorama view of the sky was just awesome, especially with the street lights and such.  The extra pilot was sitting beside me, and he pointed out all the big cities on the way into Jackson.  He pointed out Monroe, and then Vicksburg, and you could see Jackson's lights on the horizon.  So neat!

Being home has been great in itself, too.  I don't know what the difference is, and maybe it's just that I'm being more active, but my sugar levels have been lower since I got home.  Like, a lot lower.  I've been way below my cut off number for the past two days, but eating what I want.  Maybe I'm just making better food choices, but it doesn't seem like it.  Who knows.. Maybe my body just responds better to being near my family.

I miss Jason terribly, but I'm lucky enough to be able to talk to him for a few more weeks still.  The boat is going underway soon, but Jason is staying behind to finish a school.  That works really well because he'll still be there when I see the doctor here for the first time next Tuesday.  I'm going to ask about all the important things, but especially about when we can have this baby.  She was measuring a week small at 29 weeks, so I'm interested to see if she is still.  If she is, the likelihood of Doc being willing to induce will probably be small.  I hate the thought of being induced, but if Jason is only allowed a couple of days to be home, I'll do it.  He wants to wait until after I see my Doc and get an idea before he approaches the Captain about time off again.

I've gotten about half the things done I needed to do in order to have Katie Beth here.  I've gotten my address changed with DEERS, and got an appointment made with the OB I want to use.  I went today to make sure I had the referral letter from my new PCM but the lady I needed to speak with wasn't there.  There is so much red tape to this, that I don't even want to write it out.  Suffice it to say that my appointment is Tuesday, and I really hope they don't try to charge me instead of TriCare.  Blah.
Sunday, August 15, 2010

Space A Adventures

I'm becoming a pro at Space A travel.  I think I'll know all there is to know about it by the time we are done with this tour.  After that, I'll likely never get to travel for free again since we all know how often Submariners get leave.  (Civilians can read that as: Never).  So here is how my 7th Space A journey went.

There were supposed to be 2 flights leaving Guam for Hawaii on Sunday, so I was packed and ready for them.  The last time I called to check the recording at Andersen, however, there was only one flight listed, and it had a show time of 0540.  You're supposed to be there early to make sure you're signed up, so I was going to have to be there at 0500... Which, when you live where we do, that means leaving the house by 0415.  FUN.

I wasn't able to sleep anymore by 0330, so I just got up.  I let Jason sleep a few extra minutes, and we got out the door by 0410.  I was pretty sure I had everything.. We got almost to the gate, and I remembered my jacket. Military cargo planes (which I thought I'd be traveling on) are notoriously cold, so this was not ok.  We went back for my jacket, got off base, and Jason realized I'd left my pillow.  We were already running 15 minutes behind by this time, and we still had to stop for breakfast, so there went my pillow :(

We finally got to Andersen by 0515.  I went to check in, and the chick informed us that they couldn't release a seat count until roll call.  Brilliant.  It's 0515 and Jason is supposed to be at work by 0600.  He called and got someone to stand by for him (Thanks, Bueno!) so he could hang out with me until/if I made roll call.  They finally started roll call at 0615, and announced only 15 seats.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it since there were two families in Category 2.  In fact, Jason had left my luggage in the back seat because we were that sure I wouldn't make roll call.  They got through Category 2 with only 4 seats remaining.  Nobody was in Cat 3, and I was the first person signed up for Cat 4, so I made it!  NOTE: If you're going to fly Space A without your sponsor, sign up a month in advance!!

I felt really bad for the two families behind me, though.. Both families had 4 people, and there were only 3 available seats.  I almost gave up my seat so they could fly, but my thought process was this:  #1, the flight leaving Guam on Monday is a C5, and those are not such reliable flights.  For some reason they always get delayed or cancelled altogether.  I didn't want to risk not getting here in time.  #2, If they had signed up far enough in advance (like I did), they would have been ahead of me.. So.. Sorry :(  If I had known then what I know now, that family would be enjoying the Hawaiian breezes by now.

Anyway, so I made roll call, and Jason stayed with me to get my luggage checked.  I walked with him back out to the car where I proceeded to hold my tears in until I'd turned and started walking back.  I'm sick of that man seeing me cry, so I managed to get to the terminal bathroom before I lost my mind.

On to the plane!  So, let me just say, if I am ever able to choose again, I will NOT fly on a KC135.  I am accustomed to flying on a C17, and I don't mind the C5.  For future travelers, here's what matters:  C17s are the bomb.  They usually have extra space so you can lie down, walk around, whatever.  C5s typically have air line type seats, so they are pretty comfortable, just not very spacious.  KC135s, apparently, only have jump seats, and are incredibly small.  The luggage of 15 people takes a lot of space in the 135, which is not a cargo plane like the C17 and C5.  The 135 is an aerial refueling plane, so it was NOT built to carry lots of stuff.. or people.  There was exactly enough space between my jump seat and the crate of luggage for me to stretch my legs out.  The crates were right in the middle of the plane, so there were just two lines of seats on the sides of the plane, and then the crates in the middle.  So what this means, is that there are effectively two aisles for people walk up and down to get to that one bathroom near the cockpit.  Therefore, propping your feet up to sleep is a no-go.  Lying down in the aisle is a no-go.  Besides being incredibly tiny (I'll post pictures of the different people so you can compare), the 135 is not well ventilated.  While my upper body was actually sweating, my feet were freezing inside my socks and running shoes.  Needless to say, seven hours of this was more than a little uncomfortable.

We landed in Hawaii, and this particular plane was going to head on to Pittsburgh today.  Jason and I considered me staying over night here, then taking this flight on to PA and getting a commercial flight to Jackson.  The cost of a last minute ticket to Jackson would be almost the same as the cost of spending 4 days in Hawaii with a hotel and rental car.  After 7 hours on that tiny old plane (I shall refer to the KC135 from here on out as the Pterodactyl), there was no way I was prepared for any more flight time on that one.  Then I heard the crew mention that the flight to Pittsburgh was 10 hours.  Ha!  No thanks.  I'd rather spend a week in a hotel room in HI than 10 hours on the Pterodactyl.

C17 - What I'm accustomed to flying on

C5 - Just so you can see just how BIG these bad boys are
The KC135 - See the difference???  SO small in comparison!

So here I am.  There is a cargo plane going straight to the Air Guard base in Jackson on Wednesday.  My uncle is awesome and has been keeping up with this plane and crew for me.  I know it's going for sure, and on top of that, it's going straight HOME.  This never happens in the Space A world.  No commercial flights for me, just military hotel rooms.  I don't think I'm going to rent a car while I'm here, either.  The BX and Commissary are less than a quarter of a mile away, the gym is right across the street and has a pool, and the terminal is about a half mile away.  I'm still pretty capable of walking, so that's what I'm doing.  I mean, I'll call a cab to take me and my luggage back to the terminal, but for a few days, I'll be fine hoofing it.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sorry, but I'm more concerned with me - A short novel

I've been having a hard time with my decision to go home for the past few weeks.  My number one thought is "What if Jason can't make it there?"  To be honest, that terrifies me and breaks my heart all at the same time.  Talk about the worst feeling ever.. I feel incredibly selfish for wanting to be at home with my family and friends during one of the most important times of my life.  I shouldn't have to feel that way!  It would be different if Jason was guaranteed to be here, but he's not.  That boat schedule changes (quite literally) every day.  Something could happen with a random foreign country on the day before a pull in is scheduled, and Jason might not be home for months.  Staying here just doesn't seem like the right thing for ME to do.  Not when I don't have pets, don't have a full time job, and therefor don't have responsibilities.. Sorry.

Speaking of responsibilities, though.. I guess I do have one.  I am the Ombudsman for the City of Corpus Christi, and that is a big responsibility.  When I took the position, however, I was not pregnant, and had no intentions of becoming that way any time soon.  When I said "Yes, I would STILL like to be Ombudsman", I had no way to know that my husband might not make it for the birth.  I also had no way to know that I would have a slightly "complicated" pregnancy because of the diabetes.  No, it isn't really that big of a deal right now, but it could turn that way at any point.  The command has been very helpful by asking another lady to be my Co-Ombudsman.  They have been very accommodating with my decision to go home, and I appreciate that so much.  What I don't appreciate is hearing "Some people [spouses] don't think you should be going home because you took the Ombudsman position."  Wow.  Really?  First of all, I don't care what other spouses think.  Secondly, while I do value my position as Ombudsman, my husband is in the Navy, not me.

To be honest, though, giving birth on Guam isn't something I was ever excited about.  The hospital has made improvements over the last few years, but it still isn't up to par with what we as Americans are used to.  There is no NICU, so if something were to go wrong, baby would have to be med-evaced to Japan or Hawaii.  Sure, there are about 30 babies born at Naval Hospital every single month, and the majority of them have no complications.  I don't want to risk it, though.

Who would want to give birth to her first child without a husband, on a tiny island, without the comforts of home?  Who wants to do this without her family support?  Both of our moms, and I found out later, my grandparents, were planning to come out here for the birth.  While that made me feel wonderful, the fact that round-trip tickets are $1,600 made me feel like a heel!  Sure, take the amount of money that most people spend on a house note, and fly to see us for a week.

Even if Jason would be allowed to come home because I was here, he would only be allowed 10 days.  So, for 10 days, I would have family help and support, but after that, nada.  I would be completely alone with a newborn for at least the next two months.  Sorry, but that just doesn't sound like something I'm prepared for. I know there are ladies here who would offer to help out, but it's just not the same.  I wouldn't call any of them when I haven't slept for 2 days because of a baby with colic.  There are just some things that women are supposed to have their mothers and grandmothers around for.

Mom, me and Janny 
Me and Felicia (Jason's mom) on our wedding day

Me and Mammaw on my wedding day
I've written a novel defending myself and my plans, and I shouldn't have had to do that.  I haven't been able to get this off my mind for the past few weeks.  Also, the closer I get to having to leave Jason, the more I feel like a terrible person for doing so.  I know I'm doing what's best for me, though.  I know he understands, because that man loves me more than I deserve.  I just pray every single night that he is able to be home with me when our baby girl arrives.  I know it won't be easy if he's not, but I also know that I wouldn't be able to cope alone.  I have to do what's best for me, and this is it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Just Starting Out

I want to be good about keeping this updated, but I guess we'll see whether or not that happens.  As of today, I'm 31 weeks and 1 day pregnant.  Katherine Elizabeth is due on 10/10/10, and we can't wait for her arrival.  The only down side to any of this is that Jason will likely be deployed when she gets here.  I'm terrified of giving birth alone, or even close to alone, so I've decided to go home to Mississippi soon.  I can fly on a Space A flight up until 34 weeks, so I'm going soon.  I'm going to miss Jason like crazy, but that never changes.  My heart hurts every single time he goes underway.

Sub Ball 2010 - 14 weeks pregnant

I've been blessed beyond measure to have such an uneventful pregnancy.  I knew I was pregnant really quickly - less than two weeks after conception.  I was so afraid for that first trimester, but all has been well.  Jason's boat, the USS City of Corpus Christi, was in Hawaii for maintenance for five months, so I went there to be with him.  I saw a doctor at Trippler Army Medical Center while I was there, and she had me do a Glucose Tolerance test at only 12 weeks because I'm overweight.  The first test came back high, so at 15 weeks I did the 3 hour GTT.  It came back normal, so I thought I was in the clear.

Katherine Elizabeth, 29 weeks 4 days

Turns out, I was wrong.  I had to retest at 28 weeks, and sure enough, I have Gestational Diabetes.  It's only been two weeks since I was diagnosed, but it hasn't been fun.  I have a serious sweet tooth, and more than a serious love for baked goods.  In the 11 days since my diagnosis, I've been so proud of myself!  I've only given in to serious temptation and had something sweet 4 times.  That may not be a big deal for most people, but for me, it's huge.  This is all not to mention the fact that I've been having to force myself to eat meat since the 3rd month.  All I want are carbs, so again, no fun.  What's really, really sad is that I get this huge sense of accomplishment when my numbers are below the limit.  Like I've done something really good by just not eating badly.. Pathetic.

31 weeks - August 7, 2010

So for now, my thoughts are centered around eating right and getting home.  Eating correctly during the transit to MS will not be easy, but I just won't sweat it.  I know I'll get back into a normal routine once I get there.  I can't wait to be with my family, even though leaving before Jason does will be one of the hardest things I do.  I'm packed and ready to go for the most part, just waiting on the right time.