Life is a very funny thing isn’t it? Life seems to give you the greatest gifts and the greatest hardships wrapped in one neat package…or at least in the last few years this is how it has seemed.
A friend Jared worked with introduced us and we
quickly started dating. I use the term dating loosely really we were just sleeping together and hanging out. Neither of us were ready for a relationship. We had both just come out of long term relationships and Jared living on cruise ships. I spent months in an internal battle between trying to keep seeing Jared and trying to break up with him. One day I was at a friend’s house telling her how I had finally decided that I would break up with him when Jared called to tell me the bad news. Jared’s Father had been diagnosed with Bowl Cancer. I didn’t know what to do, obviously I couldn’t break up with him now but was I ready to help comfort someone through this hard time?
I went home to think about it and what I would do.
Such a difficult situation. When I walked in the door dad was sitting in his big red chair and started chatting to me about the weather, such a typical dad topic, when mum asked if I had heard my dad’s big news. My dad had gone for a stress test that uncovered he needed heart bypass surgery. I kid you not in the same night we both found out our Fathers were not the all powerful super heroes we had always seen them as. Apparently sometimes super heroes get hurt. It was around this time I realised I needed Jared as much as he needed me and our relationship seemed to grow as we comforted and distracted each other. It’s funny how sometimes life gives you exactly the thing you need to get through a situation even if you didn’t know you needed it at the time. This great guy had come into my life at just the right time and I am sure I came into his at just the right time as well, although Jared would find a less soppy way to put it. For date nights he would pick me up and we would drive to the hospital together and separate to visit our fathers on their different floors and then meet back up and drive home together. My dad came through his surgery well and made a quick recovery however for Jared’s dad the fight would continue through chemo and surgeries.
Six months passed and Life continued on as our relationship continued to grow until we decided to move in together just before a trip with friends to Japan. Of course life was not done with us and on the second day of our trip in Japan we hit the ski slopes. Now I happen to be a good skier and thought this was the perfect opportunity to impress Jared with my skills however it was the end of season and very icy and my ski slipped on a bit of ice and I twisted a ligament in my knee. I was put on crutches and given a bunch of pills to take and spend most of the trip spaced out playing solitaire in the hotel bar. As the week progressed my leg got worse and worse. By the time we had made it back to Tokyo I could barely walk. We went to see more doctors and was given more painkillers and more crutches as well as an MRI. Landing back in Australia and after seeing a few specialists I found out I also had developed DVT, blood cloths in my right leg. I was put on 6 weeks of bed rest and drugs to stop the blood clots moving around my body and start shrinking them.
Of course life had other plans for me and 2 weeks into my bed rest I started to get bad chest pains. I thought maybe it was all in my head. I am known as a bit of a hypochondriac to say the least but after hours of pain and only when I started to have trouble breathing I went to emergency. After some testing they discovered one of my blood clots had broken off in my leg and travelled up to land on my lung. Ouch. I was in hospital for 3 days on morphine and oxygen then released to continue my bed rest.
Now this is where you are going to think I am making things up but I can promise you this is true. 3 days after being released from hospital I was thoroughly stir crazy and begged Jared to take me out of the house. We were doing 70kph when the car hit us. Great another curve ball. Jared broke his shoulder blade, his sternum and some toes and was in hospital over-night. Me on the other hand, well I was on Blood thinners which make you very susceptible to bruising to say the least and internal bleeding to say the worst. I was taken to hospital with bad abdominal lacerations and bruising, a broken sternum and a hematoma in my stomach. They kept me in hospital for 4 days while they waited to make sure there was no bad internal bleeding and while I had physio to help me walk again, I was struggling having just come off crutches and the agony of a hematoma right next to my right hip made it very difficult. Jared was taken home to his parent’s house to be looked after and when I was released I was taken to be looked after by mine. I was not allowed to be left alone for a few days and had to be followed to the bathroom because I was too unstable on my feet. I might just add that the car was a write off.
Life slowly returned to normal and Jared and I moved back in together, luckily we lived above my parents house because I needed a lot of help. I couldn’t drive and had developed PTSD and freaked out every time I was in a car. I had physio appointments, hydro therapy appointments, and vascular specialist appointments for my blood clots and counselling for my PTSD. My parents were amazing cooking us meals and driving me places and, once he was able too, Jared took over all the cleaning jobs including helping me dress and shower. As time went on more injuries presented themselves including terrible lower back pain and shooting electric pain down my neck and into my shoulder blade whenever I moved my head to the right to far or too quickly.
Life trickled onward and I slowly got better. I went to work for my mum because my employer became…..shall we say unsympathetic towards my recovery and lack of ability to complete my tasks at work. I really don’t blame her, it must have put a huge strain on the company after all I was amazing and did a lot for the company (I’m modest too) and referred to myself as office Jesus. All this time Jared’s dad had been undergoing chemo and surgery and after almost a year of battling he passed away. I don’t want to go into this too much because it will always be one of the hardest things we have gone through and the intense stress almost destroyed us as a couple. You always expect life to stop when something this big happens but it doesn’t it just keeps on trickling past. I must admit this time is a bit of a blur of sorrow and stress so I will fast forward to about a year after.
Life was better and we were happy again. Jared proposed. Our relationship had been put to the test and we had passed and were now stronger than ever. I didn’t even hesitate to say yes because not only was Jared my best friend, but if our relationship could survive all this then we were strong enough to get through anything! Life was finally throwing some good stuff our way. We brought a house, a big house, enough for the three kids we wanted and one we could live in forever. We were finally living the dream. This is our year we kept telling each other and it was. We furnished our house and planned our wedding and dreamed of our future together. 9 weeks before our wedding we found out we were pregnant and we couldn’t have been happier.
I had always imagined what it would be like to be pregnant and I can honestly say it was like nothing I imagined. Pregnancy sucked. I would tell everyone don’t get pregnant its terrible just don’t do it. Although I know pregnancy is not pleasant for a lot of people I was actually pretty sick but being my first pregnancy I thought it was normal and that pregnancy just sucked. I was medicated at 8 weeks for high blood pressure but my obstetrician told me it was nothing to worry about and I would be fine. As the pregnancy progressed I felt worse and worse. I couldn’t eat and lost 12kg in the first trimester. I spent most of the second trimester trying to catch up and eat as much as I could but I had no energy and found it a struggle to get through the day. When I was around 24 or 25 weeks I was driving home and I started to feel very weird. It felt like my head wasn’t part of my body and my arms felt like they were heavy and were not mine. If any of you have ever passed out it kind of felt like that moment just after you regain consciousness where half your body feels heavy but your head feels light and spacey. Jared took me to the hospital and they check baby and they checked to make sure I didn’t have preeclampsia because my blood pressure was a bit high. They sent me home and the next day I went to see my obstetrician who put me on more medication for my blood pressure. Around 2 weeks later I felt really sick again with similar symptoms and went back to hospital. This time they confirmed I had developed preeclampsia and kept me in over night to monitor and get my blood pressure down. A week later we went for a long weekend to the snow. Jared and I love the snow, just walking around in the cold and looking at the scenery.
On the Sunday I woke up at 5am feeling absolutely terrible. I took my blood pressure with a machine I had brought and it was high. We waited a bit and rested but it didn’t go down so we packed up and started driving towards Canberra to go to the hospital there which was an hour away. Once we got to Canberra I felt a little better and decided to maybe eat something and see if we could make it back to Sydney to go to my hospital. I had a nap in the car and woke up feeling fine and my blood pressure was back to normal. We got home and had a nap before Jared went to his cousins engagement party which I convinced Jared I was also well enough to attend and at the time I did feel well enough, but by this time I had realised something wasn’t quite right with our pregnancy and I spent the night subtly trying to prepare family that our baby might come a bit early.
At 5am the next morning I woke up again feeling terrible, Blood Pressure up. Jared took me to the hospital and they kept me in all day and night. The next morning my blood pressure was finally down and they said they would discharge me. Before the papers had even been typed up I rang the nurse bell to let them know my blood pressure had gone back up. By this point I could feel it and know that horrible feeling that had been plaguing me most of my pregnancy was my blood pressure rising. My Obstetrician sent me downstairs for a growth scan to see what was happening with my baby. I was 27 weeks and my last scan was at 20 weeks where they had told me baby was on track. I don’t know if the 20 week scan was read wrong or if in just 7 weeks everything had changed because suddenly I was being told things like my placenta was small and something about a blood flow issue through the umbilical cord.
Everything then was a bit of a rush, my obstetrician came in and told me to call my husband and get him in. She told me that my baby was very small and that my high blood pressure was causing blockages in the umbilical cord. She gave me a shot of steroids and told me that I would have to be transferred to a hospital that had a NICU unit because they couldn’t look after babies that small in this hospital. Once Jared arrived I explained to him that I was going to have to stay in hospital till the baby was born and that I was being transferred to be monitored at a different hospital. I was in hospital a week until Logan was born. Every day they took my bloods in the morning and then monitored the baby for 30mins. Every 2-3 days I had a growth scan to see how baby was progressing.
Apparently everything we had gone through up to now as a couple was to prepare us for this moment. We had a tour of the NICU unit (intensive care for new babies) and met with doctors who threw a lot of statistics our way. As I had test after test and was monitored constantly and faced with the possibility that not only could our baby not survive but it was also starting to look a little scary for me. Not once did I even consider that we were not strong enough as a couple to get through this.
It was a Sunday morning when a bunch of doctors entered my hospital room asking where my husband was and how quick he could get here. Great here we go again. My blood had shown I had developed something called HELLP Syndrome. From what I know about HELLP Syndrome is that it’s a kind of add on to Preeclampsia and about 3% of women who develop preeclampsia will go on to develop HELLP Syndrome. HELLP Syndrome causes your liver to shut down and your blood platelets to drop so that your blood stops clotting.Time was sensitive because as time went on my liver would continue to shut down until either I was cured by not having a baby inside me anymore or I died of liver failure. What did this mean for me and my baby? Well at 28 weeks he was too small to deliver naturally so a C section was the only option but I couldn’t have an epidural because an injection into my spine would cause internal bleeding because my blood couldn’t clot anymore so this meant the only option was a C section under general anaesthetic.
I was moved up to the birthing suite and Jared arrived followed shortly by my parents. I was given a bunch of drugs that made me feel really sick, still not sure what they were or what they were for and after a few hrs of drugs and monitoring while we waited for my breakfast to be digested it was time for surgery. I was also weighed and found out I still weighed 2kgs less than when I found out I was pregnant. The doctors and surgeons came in and out of the room excitedly telling me all the preparations they had made. According to them this was a big deal because they never get to prepare for Hellp syndrome surgeries as the patients always come in via ambulance and are rushed straight into theatre but since I had eaten breakfast and they had no choice but to wait for my stomach to empty they had the time to make all these extra preparations. Apparently my coping mechanism through all this was really bad jokes. I basically became Chandler Bing from Friends joking with all the surgeons saying things like if they were trying to recreate an dramatic hospital scene from a movie there needed to be dramatic music and asking if they had seen the British comedy Green Wing and did they all joke like that once patients where under. Unfortunately no-one had seen it so I am still waiting to find out the answer to that question. Once we got down to the surgery they couldn’t put me under straight away because any anaesthetic I was given would also go into Logan’s system and make it harder to revive him, all babies this small need to be revived on birth. They gave me a couple of general anaesthetics in my arm to numb it so they could cut into my artery to monitor my blood pressure that way.
I must admit I didn’t ask many questions about this because I really didn’t want to know. I am not good with blood and injections and after their 3rd failed attempted I made the mistake of glancing down quickly and there was so much blood. I’m guessing they eventually succeeded because I was then put on the operating table and towels where tucked under certain parts of my body to prop me into position. I was pretty much naked with my hospital gown up around my shoulders and it was freezing, I was shaking uncontrollably and they kept telling me to stop shaking so I could get my blood pressure down but it was so cold in the theatre! The surgeons where not the only ones excited by this delivery, there were 17 people in the operation theatre including nurses, midwifes, doctors, 2 anethetists, students and a whole team from the NICU just for Logan. Next thing I know I am being wheeled down a hallway into a lift on my way to ICU. My stomach felt weird and empty and wrong. I know I had gone through a C-section to save my life and my baby’s but I still couldn’t help but feeling resentment to the doctors and nurses. It honestly felt like they had stolen my baby from me. Maybe that was the drugs, mum did say I was very out of it and talking nonsense for hours. Apparently the drugs they gave me to help keep my blood pressure down mixed with the anaesthetic would make it very hard to wake up and I would spend a few hours disorientated.
I can honestly say without being over dramatic that what followed were the worst hours of my whole life. I was in pain from the surgery and on top of that I had been given drugs to help my uterus shrink quickly to lessen the chance of internal bleeding. I hadn’t seen Logan and got almost no information about him. Jared had seen him and shown me some pictures but I felt really disconnected from them. There were people in the pictures, and medical equipment and plastic and it was really hard to look at. Jared went home to sleep he was exhausted after a stressful day and I concentrated on pressing the pain killer button as often as possible.
After a few hrs I thought I would call mum to get my mind off the pain. What’s that coming another small curve ball? That’s right while I was on the phone to my mum Jared was getting T-boned in another car accident. He was fine but my car was a bit banged up. Not really the extra stress we needed but these things happen….well they at least happen to us.
The night continued on and the pain continued as well. Around 2am I realised that if I kept pressing the pain killer button they would not discharge me from ICU and if they didn’t discharge me from ICU I couldn’t meet my son. I spent the rest of the night and morning using all the willpower I had to not press the button and suffer as long as I could. Although it was hard it paid off because around 10am when the doctors came for rounds they said “she hasn’t pressed for pain meds much since 2am only a couple of times so I think we can discharge her back to maternity”. Yes! My plan worked amazingly! At this point I begged the nice nurse who was looking after me for some oral pain killers but unfortunately there want much she could give me because my liver still wasn’t functioning properly. The next few hrs were painful for a different reason…waiting.
I had to wait for the discharge papers from ICU then wait for a transfer to come and push me back to maternity. Getting into the wheelchair was horrible and I won’t even talk about getting out of the ICU bed. Then I had to wait to be readmitted into maternity then wait for them to check my blood pressure etc. Finally at around 4pm and over 24hrs after he was born I got to meet my son and look at him in a plastic box. The pictures Jared sent could not have prepared me for how small he was. Weighting 733grams he could fit in your hand with just his legs hanging down your wrist. It’s was another few days before I was allowed to touch him and over a week before I was allowed to ‘hold him’ which consisted of 2 nurses manoeuvring him and all these tubes and cables to sit on my chest. For weeks and months I dreamed of the day I would be able to just pick him up and I will tell you the day I did finally pick him up out of the bed and hold him in my arms with no wires or breathing tubes was an amazing day.
I was in hospital a week after Logan was born and the walk up to the NICU one floor above was painful, I wasn’t even allowed paracetamol and my C-section scar was bigger than most so they would have plenty of room to get him out quickly so I found walking incredibly painful. I told Jared to have a friend over to help him de-stress and keep him company but the next morning I was released and Jared had to leave his friend at our house while he came and picked me up. Originally I had said for him to drop his friend home then swing by and get me but the nurses kept coming in telling me to go and how long was I going to be. Apparently once they decide you can leave maternity you better run. Jared picked me up and with every kilometre we drove from the hospital my heart broke a little bit more leaving my baby behind. It honestly felt like my heart was a string and one end was attached to him and it just kept unravelling the further we got until it was pulled so tight. Once we got home Jared made me comfortable and took his friend home. I tried to watch some YouTube vloggers that I loved like the Sacconejolys but they have kids and seeing their happy family all together brought me to tears and by the time Jared was home I was crying uncontrollably. We got in the car and drove back to the hospital so I could make sure Logan was alright. Of course he was fine and leaving him every day was just a heartache I would have to get used to.
Breastfeeding was my constant source of suffering and misery. Everyone says “breast is best” and “it’s so natural” well for me it wasn’t. I didn’t have a baby I could feed so I was attached to a machine all day and night like a cow pumping every 2 hours. My daily routine went something like this.
5.30am – wake up and pump
6.00am – get dressed really quick
6.15am – get in the car and have Jared drive me on the hour long trip to the hospital before he went to work
7.30 am – after putting my lunch in the fridge and saying a quick hello to baby and the nurse’s then pump
8.00am – wash my pump kit and listen to what the doctors said on rounds
8.30 – do cares which involves changing Logan’s nappy, taking the hat holding his breathing mask off and cleaning his ear and eyes, helping the nurse change the mask so that baby doesn’t get a permanent mask indentation and clean his nose. Then push his feed slowly into the tube that went into his mouth and down into his tummy. He was fed every 2hrs.
9.00am – Eat Breakfast
9.30am – Pump
This repeated until Jared picked me up after work sometime between 6-7pm then drive the hour home and pump again and make or order food and then pump again and sleep waking up in the middle of the night to pump again. Every morning when I arrived the nurse would ask how my pumping went and how much milk I had to give baby for the day. This was followed sometime in the morning by the lactation specialist stopping by asking how my pumping was going and how much milk had I got. Mid morning Logan’s nurse would go on break and another nurse would come and watch over him usually asking me how my pumping was going and how much milk I had got. In the afternoon a new nurse would come to relieve Logan’s nurse while they had lunch and they always wanted to know how my pumping was going and how much milk I had got. The evenings were a different story as a new nurse would come who was going to stay with Logan all night and of course they would want to know how my pumping was going and how much milk I had got. I have never felt like more of a failure in my life. I was already feeling like a failure from getting sick, I know it’s not my fault and there is nothing I could have done to prevent it but because of me and my sickness my baby was forced to come into the world early and now he was sick and on top of me making him sick I couldn’t even feed him.
Around 4 weeks after Logan was born he suffered from something call Serratia which led to pneumonia and Logan being moved to Isolation and Jared’s first and unforgettable Fathers Day where we were informed on arrival that Logan had chocked on his vomit that morning and turned blue. Luckily he was revived although they were about to put him on the defibrillator any minute. Hearing that your son had almost died and you were not there with him was devastatingly hard for me and poor Jared will never forget his first Fathers Day for all the wrong reasons. What made matters worse was that we were not called. The hospital never called to tell us about the move to isolation or about the close call. We showed up to the hospital and walked to his incubator crib to find it wasn’t there. This did give me a bit of a trust issue. It was hard enough not being with Logan at all times but now I was always worried when I wasn’t there what they were not telling me. I got so worked up in my head I considered bringing in an inflatable mattress and sleeping next to his crib. Luckily Jared talked me out of this.
By the time Logan was 5 weeks old my milk supply was still not doing very well and I was close to having an emotional breakdown. I was so tired from pumping every 2hrs and travelling to the hospital to sit there all day every day trying not to freak out every time the monitor went off to show Logan wasn’t getting enough oxygen and the bloody nurses with their incessant questions about my failing milk supply. After following the above schedule one day and only getting 10ml after each pump I made the hard decision to quit and have Logan just get formula which he was mostly getting anyway. Failing had never felt so good; it was like the weight of the world had come off my shoulders.
2 days after I quit breastfeeding I started to feel unwell and panicked, I can’t stay here in the hospital and make Logan sick so I left straight away and called my Dad to pick me up and take me home and went straight to bed. By the time Jared had returned home from work I had a fever and was hallucinating, talking rubbish about being in a medieval war or something. Poor Jared, he has spent the last few months watching his family suffer over and over again. I was taken to hospital by ambulance where they ran tests. Turned out I had developed not one but 3 blood clots on my right lung, 2 large and one small. Great just what we needed more life threatening situations but on the plus side the tests showed my liver was functioning normally again. I spent 3 days in hospital while they got my fever down, ran more tests and started my medication. I was told I would have to stop breastfeeding because they were still not sure if blood thinners could be passed on through breast milk. So after weeks and weeks of agonising about whether or not to keep breastfeeding and how much of a failure I had felt I would have had to quit anyway.
After I got home from hospital Jared made me promise I would take one day off from the hospital each week to see friends and rest which was not easy and if I am being honest I did sometimes trick him into taking me on my days off but it really was the best thing for me. They are still doing tests now almost 11months later for my blood clots. I tested positive whilst in hospital for an antibody called lupus (not lupus the disease) that affects the way your blood clots. We are still trying to determine if this antibody is permanent or was a result of stress on the body from being so sick. Fingers crossed I don’t have it because that might mean blood thinners for life.
Logan had 3 courses of antibiotics whilst in hospital before his pneumonia cleared up. Because of this he was on breathing support for longer than we had hoped and missed the natural window where babies have an instinct to suck and go for the bottle or breast. This meant teaching him to drink from a bottle and was the reason he was in almost a month longer than expected.
How is Logan now? He is perfect, a little small but perfect. He still has a catch up with a paediatrician every couple of months to make sure he is still doing alright as well as seeing a physio every month to make sure he is hitting milestones. He is a little bit behind from the physios point of view and they haven’t been able to rule out the small possibility of Logan having cerebral palsy but I am sure he will be fine and if not we are defiantly strong enough to overcome any challenges.
What does this mean for our travels you may ask? Until Logan can walk he will have physio every 6 weeks but he will hopefully be doing that before we go overseas next year. We will also have to fly back to Australia once a year until Logan is 5 years old so he can have follow up testing at the hospital he was born at. All this is a little tricky but totally achievable. We are even discussing the possibility of travelling in Australia between when our house sells and when we leave for Europe with us either detouring back to Sydney for appointments or locking up the car for a few days and flying back and forth.
If you take anything at all away from this story it’s that sometimes things might seem hard and unfair and like the crap just keeps getting piled on top but sometimes things happen in life to shape us into the people we need to be to face the big challenges in life. As I write this it won’t surprise any of you to know Jared is recovering from having his appendix removed. Remember no one’s problems are bigger or smaller than another’s and you do not always know what another person or family is going through. I have had a hard time with jealousy in the last few days as I have been writing and reliving some of this pain and joy as my niece was born 2 days ago and while I am extremely excited and happy for my sister-in-law the little green monster rears its ugly head at every picture I get sent of them cuddling together in the hospital, birth pictures of them meeting the second she was born and breast feeding pictures which are all things I missed out on. Sometimes one person’s joy is another’s heartache. So be kind to one another and remember to cherish the good things life throws your way as well as having respect for the bad things and the journey of self discovery and growth they send you on. As I used to say to my husband ‘life may seem bad right now but one day you will look up and realise you are somewhere you never expected to be but it is good and you are happy’.