Tuesday, December 27, 2011

home not alone/a hospital christmas

Guess who came home with us today! Hooray!
We found out she'd be coming home yesterday and it was all a bit sudden and unexpected so we had to do a mad Boxing Day dash to Mothercare to get something for her to sleep in and we don't have much else. I suppose we don't need much, although it would be nice to feel a bit more organised. I'm trying to let go and take the "we have the next 18 years to get organised" approach but I would secretly love to have a place to put her clothes and nappies as well as something other than a towel on the floor to change her on. It would also be great if we had a pram as I have a hospital appointment tomorrow and have nothing to take her there in. We actually do have a second-hand pram but we haven't managed to clean it yet and it really needs cleaning. I can't bring myself to put her in it yet after the sterile hospital environment she's been in for the last seven weeks, almost. We are supposed to keep her away from germs (no big air-conditioned buildings or socialising with other babies/children) for the next few months because she was on oxygen for so long and it makes her susceptible to respiratory tract infections, which could be quite nasty for her. All visitors must wash their hands on entry to the flat! Hopefully nobody will be too offended by that request. I'm sure people will think we're being crazily over-protective parents, but it is what we have been instructed to do by the hospital and I would certainly rather be safe than sorry.
I'm too scared to leave Dulcie unattended for even a second since we got home in case the cats get too curious or go into mental attack mode, not that they have ever been particularly violent or aggressive in the past. You never know though! Do you see Poppy peering into the moses basket from her vantage point on top of the shelves?
Dulcie is blissfully unaware of her hairy older sisters so far and has been frightening them off with her very noisy windy emissions.
We enjoyed spending Christmas Day together even though it did not feel much like Christmas. Dulcie wore her fancy new cardigan (hand knitted by her granny) for the occasion and we gave her a bath especially. We brought all her presents to the hospital to open and Santa delivered a nice parcel to her there too. She got us a lovely handmade card, a very nice surprise! Her handwriting is surprisingly similar to one of the nurses'...
Dulcie had had a very unsettled night on Christmas Eve (she's been much better since then) and I had had next to no sleep and was feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything. When the "vegetarian" Christmas dinner I had ordered from the canteen turned out to be decidedly unvegetarian salmon, leaving me Christmas-dinner-less, it was the straw that broke the camel's back and I couldn't help having a good old Christmas weep. Unfortunately, a nurse caught me weeping, causing much concern amongst the medical staff. I don't think they believed simple tiredness and no Christmas dinner could push a grown woman to such a dark place. What can I say? I love Christmas dinner! Above is what I ended up having as a substitute - egg mayonnaise sandwiches (one white and one brown for a bit of variety), an apple and two yoghurts left over from someone's breakfast. Festive it was not! Thank goodness my mum is coming to cook us a belated Christmas dinner at New Year :)

Better go and look after this baby or something. I'm not sure what to do with her now she's here...

Friday, December 23, 2011

no wonder I was getting confused

Now that I'm on antibiotics as well as all my heart medication (sigh... don't ask) I have had to invest in one of these old lady style tablet storage boxes. I was getting very confused about what to take when and could never remember, even 30 seconds after taking tablets, whether I had taken them or not. Sleep deprivation does terrible things to the brain, but once I arranged my week's tablets last night I could see why I had been finding it so hard to keep on top of. We're talking double figures of tablets every day. Yowsers! It has been so nice just to pop pills without thinking too much today. Out of context, that sentence could make this post sound much more exciting than it is!

This is the first year ever that I haven't done anything for Christmas. I haven't managed to write a single card or put up the tree or make a gumdrop wreath or even hang up a single strand of tinsel. I was not feeling the Christmas vibe at all and we had been discussing what to do with our sad Christmas evening when we would have to leave Dulcie behind at the hospital again, but today we had some good news. Dulcie (and I - credit where credit's due!) have been doing so well with the daytime breast feeding that I am getting to move in with her full time so that she can begin breast feeding overnight too and I am moving in tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, so I can wake up with Dulcie on Christmas morning and stay with her all day and go to sleep with her at night. There might even be room in the hospital bed for Graham to stay too. And just when you thought this little Christmas miracle couldn't get any better, it turns out Santa comes to visit all the babies and brings them a present! This is really the home straight now and Dulcie should be home with us soon, soon, soon. Right at the eleventh hour, it is beginning to feel a little bit like Christmas :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

last month's day in the life - november 17th

1.00pm - the highlight of my day

It may seem kind of extreme to bother posting my Day In The Life over a month late (let it go, woman!) but since the 17th of November was the date I personally chose for Day In The Life, I feel duty bound to share my day. I chose the 17th of November for no reason in particular other than that it was the date of my first antenatal class. Hmm, well, obviously I did not attend that! I did have quite an eventful day though and one that I think is worth recording, even if it is a month and more late, so here it comes...

2.00am - My alarm goes off so that I can express milk for my baby that I wasn't even meant to have yet.

4.15am - I realise I must have fallen asleep again while getting my bosoms out as they are out now but as yet unmilked. This is not a good time of night for me this week and I start thinking about everything that is going on and begin to cry.

4.30am - I have to collect all my urine in cardboard containers for the nurses to measure but I accidentally pee straight in the toilet like a normal person and flush it away. Oops.

4.45am - I am still crying. One of the nurses comes in and takes me along the corridor to sit in the nurses' station with them. They give me a cup of tea (my first caffeinated drink since becoming pregnant!) and a slice of fruit cake and I get to watch all the patients' heart beats zigzagging away on the big monitor. It looks as though we all have rather random heart beats, but I am no expert in these things.

5.30am - No longer crying, I go back to my room and express some milk which I then pour down the sink. The doctors haven't decided whether it's safe for Dulcie to have my milk what with all the medication I'm on, but I am still expressing in the hope they might say it's OK eventually. It is a bit soul destroying at this time of night and I'm fairly certain they're going to tell me I can't breast feed. This is one of many things making me cry this week.

6.00am - The camera at the Southern is not pointing at Dulcie's incubator so I can only see a wall. This is often the case at night, but I would really like a quick peek at Dulcie before I go to sleep. I shout into the monitor to try to attract the nurses' attention so I can ask them to turn the camera round for a minute. No joy - I think they must have me muted at their end. I switch the lights out and go to sleep.

7.45am - I wake up from a dream where I've been walking around with one of the nurses and the wires from my heart monitor keep getting tangled around my ankles and tripping me up. I think the symbolism is pretty self-explanatory! Interestingly, this is one of only three dreams I have during my whole fortnight in hospital.

8.00am - The new student nurse comes in to check my blood pressure and another nurse takes my daily blood sample. I tell her that I heard the consultant saying (while he stood right outside my open door) that I "wouldn't thank him" for sending me for an MRI scan and ask her why this might be. She looks unimpressed at the consultant's people skills and reassures me that an MRI scan is nothing to worry about unless you're claustrophobic, which I am not really. I don't want the student nurse to give me my injection (the one she gave me yesterday is still very sore and lumpy) but I know I won't have the heart to say so when the time comes. I get weighed in the weighing chair. I weigh 78kg. I've lost about 10kg since being admitted nine days ago but I guess some of that weight was baby.

8.15am - I check in with Beverly, one of Dulcie's nurses, via the webcam. She tells me Dulcie is doing very well - she's now drinking 20ml of milk at a time and is still coping well without her breathing tubes. The next step is to move her from intensive care to high dependency, just as soon as there's a space available for her. Hooray! I get washed and dressed and wash my surgical stockings in the sink and hang them up to dry.

8.40am - Breakfast arrives. Today I have been given scrambled eggs. Again. I'm not sure I can face them. I asked for scrambled eggs once and haven't been able to persuade them to give me anything else since.

8.45am - The student nurse comes in to give me my pills and tells me she'll give me my injection after breakfast. Oh dear. I wash the breast pump and my nightie in the sink, not at the same time.

9.00am - A porter arrives to escort me to my MRI scan and he has no wheelchair! I'm getting to walk! This is very exciting - the first time I have been allowed to walk further than five metres in nine days - but the porter walks quite quickly and I struggle to keep up.

9.15-10.30am - I have my MRI scan. Twenty minutes in, I discover I am more claustrophobic than I thought and have to be removed from the tube in floods of tears. I think the hospital will have to bill me for hankies when I leave as I have gone through A LOT. I manage to calm down, go back in the tube and make it to the end of the scan despite having to listen to Robbie Williams.

10.30am-12noon - I go back to my room where Graham is waiting for me. The postnatal psychologist comes to see us. I go through yet more hankies, but it is very useful to speak to her.

12.30pm - The ambulance arrives to take me for my second ever meeting with Dulcie. Since it has been such a busy day, someone brings me a packed lunch to eat en route to the other hospital. It feels like a proper outing now! Stuck in traffic, a minibus full of pensioners look very surprised to see me lying on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance eating a sandwich!

1.00pm - We arrive at Dulcie's ward. She's finished with her antibiotics now so the doctor removes the tube from her bellybutton and then she comes out for a cuddle. The nurse puts her inside my nightie and she goes to sleep looking very contented with life. It's ace.

2.30pm - Time to go. Graham heads back to the flat to feed the cats while I travel back to my hospital in the ambulance. On the way we see a woman collapsed on the pavement and our ambulance driver has to jump out to administer first aid. Fortunately someone has already called an ambulance for her and it arrives soon after so I don't have to surrender my stretcher!

3.15pm - Back at my hospital, I send a few emails to update people with Dulcie's progress.

4.00pm - I express milk again. This is the first time I've been able to do it today so I'm worried my milk supply will have dried up, but it hasn't. Phew. In fact, this is my most successful breast pump session in days.

4.30pm - The nurse and student nurse come in to change my Caesarian dressing. It's like getting a bikini wax and there is much ouching from me and much laughter from all three of us. Apparently my scar is looking good and the student nurse is surprised by how small it is which is reassuring. I haven't seen it yet. Once they leave, I relax on the bed for a while and update my notes for Day In The Life.

4.45pm - I email more people to let them know that Dulcie has been born.

5.15pm - Graham arrives to see me, shortly followed by my dinner. Tonight it is disgusting chilli and not disgusting carrot cake.

5.45pm - My dad (who's in Glasgow for a meeting) arrives outwith visiting hours again! I keep telling him, but he pays no heed. The nurses seem to be turning a blind eye today though and he has cards and presents with him, so we'll forgive him.

6.30pm - My dad and Graham head off to visit Dulcie. I am shattered and want to sleep but email a few more people about Dulcie instead.

7.20pm - I chat to my dad, Graham and Dulcie over the webcam.

7.30pm - I express milk in front of EastEnders. I have no idea what goes on in Albert Square these days.

8.00-8.30pm - I try and fail to crochet the first two rows of a cardigan for Dulcie. I try and fail again. And again. I hate crocheting into the foundation row!

8.30pm - I have a lie down and watch Dulcie wiggling her bum.

9.00pm - Graham gets back and we try to find something on telly to watch.

9.20pm - Toast time! Late evening toast and butter is my favourite thing about being in hospital. Unfortunately, it is always accompanied by tablets and a really painful injection.

9.30pm - More milking.

10.00pm - I get some nice emails from friends and fellow subtitlers. My workmates are so lovely and have sent so many good wishes since I shared all the news with them.

10.20pm - Graham heads off to bed in his swanky room in the hotel attached to the hospital. My nurses have very kindly arranged for him to stay there for free while I'm in hospital so he can keep me company as much as possible. I start half watching Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo.

10.30pm - I chat to Karen (one of my favourite nurses) who tells me my Caesarian will stay weirdly numb for ever. Nooo! She also checks my blood pressure etc.

10.40pm - Dulcie is wriggling around a lot so I chat to her over the webcam.

11.00pm - I catch up on a few of my favourite blogs.

11.40pm - Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo finishes so I get washed, brush my teeth, express more milk and get into bed.

12.20am - I say good night to Dulcie and go to sleep at last.

Since I was incapacitated with babies and surgery and heart conditions etc, Claire kindly took over the job of collating posts and choosing someone to pick the date for December. Click on the links to find out how these people spent November 17th.

I believe Nikki is choosing the date for December's Day In The Life but I'm not sure if she has chosen it yet. Keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

remember this blanket?

Dulcie and I got a private room to ourselves for the whole day today so we could do lots of naked cuddling in the hope it might encourage her with her breast feeding. I'm not sure how well it worked (she was pretty hungry by the time I left!) but it was lots of fun and her ripple blanket came in very handy as we smooched away on the bed and in the fancy reclining chair. Hopefully we should be able to use this room every day now until she masters the art of the milk.
Dulcie was totally tube free yesterday for the first time ever! Here's her lovely tube-free face. She had her feeding tube back in by the time I arrived this morning, but once she is managing to get all of her milk in the good old fashioned way, she'll be able to have the tube permanently removed and come home. She's been doing so well this week (look, no oxygen!) and just has this one last hurdle to overcome, but there's no telling how long it will take. The doctors and nurses are hopeful she will crack it soon and we might be able to have her home in time for New Year...ish. Maybe. We are trying hard to be patient, but having our own wee room today really showed us how lovely it will be to have her home at last and all to ourselves and we just can't wait.

Come on, Dulcie! You can do it!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

happy mini birthday, mini girl!

Can you believe this little sleeping beauty is a whole month old today? We had a lovely afternoon celebrating with her at the hospital.
She enjoyed a little dance with her dad...
... and we decorated her cot with some of my miniature bunting.

Happy mini birthday, Dulcie!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

what becomes of the broken hearted?

I am sure even the least observant of you will have noticed that I have been unusually absent on my blog over the last four weeks or so. After contemplating ditching the world of blogging for ever (it's hard to get back on the horse after so long when so much has been happening) I decided I should do one dedicated post to get things back up to date and then start trying to get back to some form of bloggy normality, so here is the short-but-still-long version of the last month's events.

I don't know if anyone will remember way back in about September when I had to visit the out of hours GP with a suspected urinary tract infection. I didn't have a urinary tract infection in the end, but while I was there the nurse noticed that my pulse was a bit irregular and advised me to go and see my GP about it even though it was very common in pregnancy and most likely nothing to worry about. Over the next couple of months I was back and forth to the doctor about it, getting blood tests that didn't show anything, spending lots of time with the doctor's stethoscope. The doctor agreed that it was nothing to worry about, very common in pregnancy, probably just caused by my insides being all squashed and my diaphragm rubbing against my heart a bit, but he decided to refer me to a cardiologist to get an ECG done (and maybe an ultrasound scan or similar) so that they had a record of what my wonky heartbeat was doing, but he reassured me again that it was absolutely nothing to worry about and I really wasn't worried.

So late afternoon on November 8th I left work a little bit early and headed over to the hospital for my appointment with the cardiologist and, obviously you can see where all this is going, it turned out that my irregular heartbeat was something to worry about after all. In fact, it was something to be so worried about that I wasn't allowed to leave the hospital and was admitted to a cardiology ward immediately. In fact, the doctors were so worried about it that I wasn't even allowed to walk down the corridor but had to be taken to the ward in a wheelchair where I was told not to get out of bed for any reason. A whole host of medical staff kept coming in and asking me (among other more scary and strange questions) had I really been at work that afternoon and had I really used public transport and the power of my own legs to get to the hospital for my appointment, exchanging incredulous glances and raising their eyebrows a lot. All of this gave me the pretty clear impression that things were serious, although the only symptoms I had were a bit of breathlessness and very slightly swollen ankles, not exactly unusual for a pregnant lady.

As you can imagine, if the doctors wouldn't let me walk 20 metres or even stand up, they were not particularly keen for me to be pregnant. The consultant started talking about the possibility that the baby might have to be delivered a little bit early and they began giving me steroid injections (very painful ones right in the bottom) to help the baby's lungs develop "just in case".

After a sleepless night of watching my heart on the monitor (realising the doctors were not making this up and it really was very wonky) and having my blood pressure taken every 30 minutes, about six doctors appeared at sunrise and told me that I would be getting transferred immediately to the hospital where all the heart specialists lived, where I would be having the baby by Caesarian section the following morning. Everything started moving scarily fast and I was whisked to the maternity hospital in an ambulance for a scan to see how big/developed the baby was and then taken straight to the heart hospital where the full horror of the situation was explained to me in tiny instalments over the course of the day. Editing the whole mountain of bad news down to the bare essentials for the sake of this blog post and your eyes, which must be feeling the strain by now, I was told that I was too unwell to be able to have a spinal anaesthetic during the Caesarian and so would have to have a general anaesthetic, and even if they didn't have to keep me knocked out for two days as they were suggesting they might (an idea that absolutely terrified me) by the time I came round, the baby would already have been taken to neonatal intensive care at an entirely different hospital and I would be staying right where I was, not even having seen our baby.

So on the morning of November 10th our baby was delivered and we had a little girl who weighed 3lb 12oz, a very good weight for a baby at 31 weeks' gestation apparently. Graham and my mum and dad got to meet her very briefly before she was whisked away in the ambulance and they assured me she was lovely.


The hospital staff set up a webcam so I could see the baby in her incubator from my hospital room, first in intensive care and then on a heart failure ward. This was better than not seeing her at all, but it was still just the most miserable time ever. I cried and I cried and I cried and I cried. I had lots more tests and scans done over the next few days and weeks and I cried through them all. Then I cried a bit more and every day I begged the doctors to let me go home or at least be transferred to the same hospital as the baby but the answer was no, so I cried and I cried and I cried and I cried some more.


Graham and my parents visited the baby every day and I watched them visiting on the webcam and cried some more and they brought me back photos of the baby (all covered up with tubes) and I cried some more.


Eventually, after five solid days of crying, the doctors could stand it no longer and agreed that I could go and meet our baby, provided I travelled by ambulance and took a nurse and my heart monitor with me. So I finally met our little girl when she was five days old and while I was having my first ever cuddle with her we decided we would call her Dulcie Lois.


Dulcie has been doing really well since she made her debut appearance over two months ahead of schedule. She was moved out of intensive care and into high dependency when she was ten days old and on Wednesday evening she made her second attempt at moving out of her incubator and into a cot, and this time she has coped with it really well and is managing to keep herself warm with only a mountain of blankets and her granny's hand knitting to help her. She has been gaining weight slowly but surely and this week she got back to her birth weight and past her birth weight and is now a whopping (to us) 4lb 2oz! On Saturday she will be a whole month old already! She is still getting a little bit of oxygen now and again to help with her breathing and she still has to be fed through a tube, but over the last few days she has been trying her hand at breast feeding and she's getting pretty good at it, even though she gets so exhausted that she can't suck for more than a minute or two.


Dulcie's really very adorable, if I do say so myself, with hundreds of hilarious facial expressions and crazily long arms and legs. She is very patient with us and our inept attempts at nappy changing, which is much easier now that we don't have to do it with our hands stuck through the incubator portholes! She doesn't cry very often and when she does it is the tiniest little noise you could ever imagine. Her nurses assure us this will change! The doctors can't give an exact date for us to be able to take her home (it depends how she gets on with feeding, breathing and growing) but they are hopeful that she might be home around Christmas or New Year.

I finally got out of hospital after two long weeks and many nasty procedures like having tubes fed into my wrists and up my arm and right into my heart, not something I would recommend if you can possibly avoid it! The doctors are not sure what made my heart stop working - maybe the pregnancy, maybe a temporary blockage (like a blood clot) in one of my coronary arteries, or maybe a heart attack - but whatever the cause, the treatment is the same. I'm still having to visit various hospitals for appointments most days (sometimes three times a day) but at least it means I am free to spend time with Dulcie whenever I like in between times. I am not feeling ill in the way the doctors assure me I should be, but am quite tired and light-headed from all the medication I have to take and a bit depressed with the whole situation and the fact that I am spending so much time in waiting rooms where I am the only person under 80. The doctors say everything is going well so far and that they are very optimistic that the medication will help my heart, but we won't really know for sure until I have been taking it for at least six months. At the moment it's quite difficult to forget about it and just enjoy having Dulcie, but I am sure it will all be much better/easier once she eventually comes home.


I should add, just so it's on the record, that Graham has been completely amazing throughout all of this, super supportive in the most and least practical of ways, keeping me focussed on the good aspects of what has happened as well as keeping on top of everything in the house and generally being lovely to me. And my parents have been a huge support too, running back and forth to Glasgow (a long journey to make multiple times) and finding the perfect balance of being there for us all and giving us space. The only downside of all this is that I'm pretty sure my mum has officially fallen in L-O-V-E love with Graham!

So that is where I have been for the last four weeks - busy having life-threatening heart conditions and premature babies, not just taking a well-earned break from blogging after blogtoberfest! The doctors don't seem to be considering a month of daily blogging as a potential cause of heart failure, but I am not so sure. Now that I have got the old blog all up to date with recent events I will aim to share my November's Day In The Life post later this week and start getting back to normal blogging (albeit less frequent and more focussed on babies and boobies, I expect) as soon as I can. Many, many more photos of the lovely Dulcie to follow!