There’s nothing like having your wife post a pic of your two-and-a-half year-old son getting ready for his first afternoon at the pre-school nursery to make you realise time is ticking on, and that he’s now literally playing with the big(ish) boys. Even if he can’t speak clearly yet… He was learning to walk last year!
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Since we arrived, I’ve been meaning to stop in to my old GP’s office here in Sandusky. Dr. B, after all, saved my life.
I still remember 7 years ago this past April walking into his office, sheaf of paper in hand, saying “I think I need help.” I had been awake for about 27 hours before that moment, hallucinating and unable to sleep. I had charted my progress for the week prior – in 7 days I had only managed maybe 15 hours of sleep total. I was seeing and hearing things which did not exist. I had wild, grandiose plans in my head. I was manic. I didn’t officially know the word yet, but I knew what I was feeling. And I knew how I was when I wasn’t manic – withdrawn, unable to concentrate, feeling of little to no self worth, etc. I wanted to die, but my body wouldn’t let me.
My doc read my itinerary from Hell, put his head in his hands, and said, “I need to go home now.”
He diagnosed me as bipolar, and put me on a drug called Zyprexa. The drug saved my life while simultaneously killing me – it turned me into a walking zombie, and destroyed my metabolism. By the time I changed drugs 1.5 years later, I had gained 82 lbs. But, it allowed me to get to a place where (with intensive talk therapy and a less severe med) I was able to manage my disease. It was no longer the death sentence I initially saw it as.
Now here we are, 7 years later. I am married (something I never thought I would do), with a baby (something I never thought I would have), and I am for the time being med free. I am a vocal advocate for the rights of the mentally ill, having done video spots for the Time to Change project, and even mentoring others as they begin their process into the delightful world of bipolar disorder. For me, though, the greatest ‘proof’ of my progress is Alex. He’s my shining achievement – a constant reminder of how far I have come.
And that’s why I wanted to visit him so badly – Dr B saw me at a place of such desperation, I *needed* him to see that I had succeeded. I needed him to see the evidence of my strength. He had watched me slump into his office, full of pain, just wanting answers. Then, when I got the answers/diagnosis, full of such anger. And finally, he saw me resolved to beat my disease into submission. Some days I win, some days I don’t, but I always get up and fight. I have to – for me.
And, for Dr B.
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This is the story of the birth of our first child, WeaponX. It is not a pretty story. I’m crying as I type it, because… well, many reasons. The intensity of what we went through was overwhelming, and I don’t think either of us have had the time to really process it all. I’m crying because I feel a lot of guilt over what I feel were mistakes on my part during the birth which led to so many issues. I’m crying because I’m a new mum, and while you can plan for so many things during pregnancy, you can’t plan for how you feel once that amazing new life form is placed in your arms.
On Friday Jan 14th, my due date, I went in for another check up, where I was told I was 75% effaced, and 2 cm dilated or so. I also had blood tests done for Obstetric Choleostasis, as my whole body was massively itching.
On Tuesday 18th, the test results came back abnormal – not deadly high, but high enough that they wanted me to come in for another test. We went in on Wed for the blood and to listen to Weapon for a bit. On Thursday 20th, the doc called. The test results were a bit higher (46, the top level should only be 40). Between being almost a week overdue and in torture from this pregnancy (I was still vomiting once a week, the heartburn meant I was drinking Gaviscon like water, etc), and obsessing over every internet factoid I could find about OC (the levels could jump at any minute, you could lose your baby within moments, etc), when the doc offered induction, I grabbed it with both hands. We went into the hospital at 1.30 pm, on Thursday the 20th.
They induced me at 3.30pm using a pessary, and hooked me up to a bunch of monitors and such. By the late evening, there was no change, so Monkey was kicked out till the next morning. We thought for sure Weapon would have started to be born by then. We were idiots.
After 24 hours, (Friday the 21st), the pessary was taken out and I was continually monitored to see if I could ‘kick start’ my own labor. I was examined, and found the pessary actually caused my cervix to *harden* and begin to close! I was also told Weapon may have flipped, and that I could leave the hospital, and they would monitor me via blood levels. I was terrified of leaving, convinced my child would die if I didn’t stay hooked up to the monitors, etc. I stayed another lonely night in the antenatal ward, waiting for a spare slot in the birthing suite upstairs.
Saturday the 22nd, at 12.30 pm, they decided to go with breaking the waters artifically/Syntocin drip method. After a DROWNING (poor midwife looked like she had taken a swim!) from the waters, the Syntocin drip was placed in and we waited. The machines continually monitored my heartbeat, blood pressure and plenty of other things that’d occasionally go ping.
At 6pm, they placed an epidural in my spine – because of a prior back injury, they had to place the epidural three times. There’s nothing as much fun as hearing a bunch of doctors say “Ok, you’re just going to feel a bee sting in your back”, talk behind you and then say “Ok, one more bee sting” – over and over again. The spinal block was finally adminstered, and we settled in for a long night.
The spinal block worked a charm – I felt nothing. However, the epidural that they used to top it up didn’t work – the spaces between my veterbrae were too compressed and the medicine couldn’t reach my nerves and do whatever the hell it was supposed to be. That, paired with a posterior baby, me being strapped to my back in a bed and the syntocin drip equalled for very very painful contractions.
We laboured throughout the night – I’ll admit at this point I started losing any sembalance of time and space. The contractions got so hard that by 5am (Sunday 23 January) I was screaming every minute or so, and I’d only get 30 seconds of respite between each contraction. The epidural had stopped working, so they gave me gas and air but it lost all effectiveness by 6am, but it didn’t stop me chugging it for all that it was worth, and resisting any attempt to have it taken away from me!
At 5.30am, I was still snarky enough to shout to a random hospital orderly: “I’ll give you £10 to cut this baby out of me!”, but shortly after that, I became a gas’n’air chugging fiend….
Monkey is now going to take over writing this, as I have no clue what happened at this point.
Monkey: The doctors had wanted to examine her innards for sometime, but she was resisting all attempts to be examined – who wants more pain when you’ve already got plenty of pain? However, by 7.45am she’d been given doses of an extra anaesthetic (PHC-A or something) and at 8.30am, she was examined by the doctor.
Who suddenly commanded her to PUSH, P-U-S-H and P–U–SSS—-HHHH. I tell you, when you’ve been watching your poor wife struggle for at least 14 long hours and you had already begged for a C-section, it was like being led out of the light. Someone hit some kind of emergency button, and suddenly six women came in, all exhorting her to push in a variety of phrases.
HyperHam says: “it wasn’t so much the pushing that was excruciating … but it felt like my insides were being torn out and there was nothing I could do about it. Between each contraction, I remember them putting things in me – I had no idea what they were doing but I knew I was so far beyond the pain I couldn’t express myself beyond gutteral screams”. But oddly, these screams were nowhere near as bad as before.
Monkey: They ended up doing a second-degree episitomomy and used forceps before the baby finally emerged at 9.22am – with a cord around his neck.
HyperHam : “That’s when I realised what they were doing – they were reaching inside of me to try and un-hook the cord), which was cut immediately and the baby plopped onto my stomach. I don’t remember that actually happening – I remember putting my hand up for something on my chest, and my hand being covered in blood. I asked what had happened, and they said I had a baby. I was so far gone, I didn’t recognise the child on my chest. I thought when I passed the placenta, THAT was the baby. He was “pale, flat and floppy” according to the birth notes, so upon exiting he was taken to the crash cart to be resucitated, and he started to perk up fairly quickly.”
Monkey : “Once she had realised that the baby was out, she told me to cut the cord (as our birth plan had laughingly suggested). Unfortunately, of course, the cord had already been cut. She then told me to follow the baby, exhorting me to make sure I had protective gloves on – which seems ironic given the blood bath around me – and that the baby was at the time surrounded by 5 suitably dressed medical personnel (including one bloke!) I wasn’t going to touch the baby just yet. At one point, someone congratulated HyperHam and told her there was no more pushing, and she didn’t respond because she was OUT for the count. Of course, I looked behind me at her and erm… I had wanted to document EVERYTHING but some things are best left not photographed.”
Monkey : “The baby was eventually handed over to me, looking a tad confused, still and being very quiet, but very much alive. Of course, I showed him to her, and that was that really. We coo’ed, we aww”d, then the new midwife (the shifts had changed) came in and went ‘WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENED?'” Then we looked around and found blood EVERYWHERE. At chest height on the curtains covering the door, in pools underneath the bed, all over the crash cart trolleys and all over every single person in the room.”
“The midwife came and weighed him, swaddled him, and she got to hold him for the first time to her breast before he was put him back under the warming grill and fell DEAD asleep for a couple of hours. In that time, somehow we managed to update Facebook in our sleep with the first picture.”
“Four hours later, after a suitably long nap, she tried to get up to get a shower – a process that involved unhooking her from all the various machines – but she felt very dizzy in the bathroom, and had to be supported and then carried back into the bed. ”
HyperHam : “Alexander (the baby) and I spent the night in the “High Dependency” unit, where I had a blood transfusion of three pints and IV shunts placed in both arms and my foot for additional fluids. I was also monitored for a tachy heartrate.
By 6am the next morning, I was moved to the traditional post-natal unit where I stayed for the next two nights recuperating, and where Alexander was monitored for jaundice. despite all attempts by staff to make my stay as easy as possible, the NHS doesn’t allow partners to stay overnight. So the first night in the post-natal ward was one of the worst nights of my life – and needless to say, much-needed sleep didn’t really happen, what with being in constant pain and confusion and the realisation that you suddenly have this new lifeform and no NCT or pre-natal class, or book, can prepare you for that night of loneliness.
We were finally sent home six days after walking in, with a new beautiful baby boy, a mountain of medications and a regimen of hemo-dialysis injections that Monkey has to give me every morning.