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When your birthing plans get thrown out the window…

August 6, 2015

I’m a planner. I like to plan ahead, organize and be in the know. When it came to giving birth, I of course did my research and mapped out the ideal birth plan. I had picked out a hospital near my parents’ place and was very happy with it. I exercised a lot to stay in shape and be ready for labor. But all my careful planning went right out of the window, starting with day 1 of my labor.

Disclaimer: I am sharing my birthing story with you for two main reasons.

  1. To raise awareness of HELLP Syndrome
  2. To share the miracle of God’s grace on my life

I’ve been trying to figure out what the best way would be to share my story. I’ve decided to write in a diary style, chronicling my days in the hospital(s) I was at. I’m still processing a lot of information and emotions so my writing will most likely feel very “raw” but I hope you will bear with me and read this through to the end. Some of the details have started to blur but here is a recounting of what happened, as best that I can remember.

Short version:  For those of you who do not have the time to read through this post, here is an executive summary.  I had a three-day labor, followed by a five-day stay in the ICU, which was followed by another eight-days in the hospital.  I had something called Class 1 HELLP Syndrome, combined with severe pre-eclampsia and disseminated intravascular coagulation.  But I am home now with my beautiful daughter recovering and taking it day-by-day, doing much better than I was in the hospital.

Long version:  keep reading.

Day 1: I woke up at the crack of dawn on the morning of our daughter’s due date and felt a rush of water come out and thought, “Here it is! This must be my water breaking and it’s happening right on time!” I had no contractions and was a little nervous but excited that today might be the day I would finally meet my daughter. I went to the bathroom and discovered that my water was not colorless and odorless as I was told it should be. Rather, it was greenish-brownish. I called the hospital and was told to come in immediately. I was hospitalized and told that I would be induced. D (my husband) showed up later and swapped places with my mom who had been with me all morning. The contractions were very slow in coming and at the end of the day, I was told that we would try again the next day.

Day 2: I started the day thinking, “Okay, this is the day. I get to meet my daughter by the end of the day. I can do this.” I got hooked up to the IV around 8:00 to start inducing again and I started feeling contractions fairly soon after the medication kicked in. I was also hooked up to a monitor to check on the baby’s movements and heartbeat. The baby was doing just fine but I wasn’t dilating very much which was discouraging. At the end of day 2, we had a doctor come in and talk to us about the possibility of delivering via c-section. The hospital I had carefully picked out to give birth at was big on natural delivery so they didn’t want to encourage a c-section but if by the end of day 3, the baby was not out, we would need to have a c-section both for my safety and the baby’s. We were explained the risks and signed papers. I’ll be honest. I was discouraged but I understood why I might need a c-section. D & I talked things over and I was able to sleep pretty well that night.

Day 3: Again, woke up with the thought, “Finally. No matter what, at the end of the day, I will meet my baby girl whether it’s by natural birth or c-section.” I was moved into a delivery room and at 8:00, I started my IV again and the contractions started up. This day was rough. I was exhausted from 2 full days of contractions and they were getting stronger and I wasn’t given any food just in case I ended the day with surgery. I started the day at 3cm and by the end of the day, I was dilated just 6cm. It was extremely frustrating. And at 20:30, I had 3 doctors come in for a final check and was told that I would need to get a c-section. D & I prayed together and felt at peace about the decision. I was ready to have this baby out. Around 22:00, I was taken to the operating room, given anesthesia and my baby girl, Alisa, was born at 22:41 on July 8th. I was conscious through the whole procedure and I remember crying when I heard her first cry and saw her beautiful face. I couldn’t hold her but the doctors took her out to D and my mom who were waiting anxiously. I went to sleep happy that the ordeal was over and A was safely delivered.

Day 4: When things got crazy. I woke up feeling groggy but knew that my body had just undergone major surgery and I was still coming off of the anesthesia. The nurses came and took my blood and a couple hours later, a doctor came in and told me I was going to be transferred to another hospital. What? I was still groggy and unsure what she meant so I immediately called D and my mom and told them to come. A nurse came in with A and let me hold her. Below is the picture she took of the two of us. Little did I know that this would be the last time I would hold her for 6 days.

 

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D and my mom showed up and I told them I didn’t know what was going on. The doctors came back to my room and told me my blood test results were abnormal. The numbers showed that I had Class 1 HELLP Syndrome. They were calling hospitals all over Tokyo to see where I could be transferred to. I don’t remember this but apparently it took over an hour for them to finally find a hospital. All I remember is I had 3 nurses frantically trying to find a vein in my extremely swollen arms and poking me with needles. I believe they were trying to give me magnesium (to prevent a seizure from happening).

I remember the ambulance coming and my heart breaking at the thought of being separated from A. I remember thinking, “I’m just going to get whatever is wrong with me treated at this other hospital and come right back.” Oh, how wrong I was.

D came with me in the ambulance, my mom and brother-in-law stayed with A. I was transported to a big university hospital in Tokyo and I remember being wheeled into the ER and being surrounded by a whole team of doctors. I kept thinking, “What is the big deal??” I had one doctor at my head asking me questions like “What is your name?” “Can you tell me where you just came from and where you are now?” “What is my job?” I answered all the questions but in my head I was thinking, “Why are you asking me these dumb questions?” I later found out that my numbers were so off the chart that I should not have been conscious or lucid.

After the ER, I was wheeled into another room to get a CT-Scan. This is when I first thought maybe I wasn’t feeling myself because my breathing was very shallow and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath long enough for the scanning. From there, I was taken to the ICU where I was eventually reunited with D. One of the ICU doctors came and spoke to us about my hospital stay and how I couldn’t have my phone with me because of the ICU policy. He also mentioned that my stay would be about one week. My heart sank. One week?? What about Alisa? How am I going to breastfeed her? Why do I need to stay when I feel “fine”?

I clearly remember how calm D was during the entire day and how encouraging he was to me and telling me that I was in good hands. It was hard to say goodbye when he had to leave.

Here’s what I remember from my first night in the ICU:

*My bed was one of many in a half circle of other trauma patients and it was too bright for me to fall asleep

*What also prevented me from falling asleep was all the noise. The beeping alarms from all the machines the patients around me were hooked up to (including myself)

*My blood pressure was measured every 10 minutes or so for the first few hours (keeping me from falling asleep)

*A doctor came and gave me a blood transfusion because of my low platelet count (30,000)

*Another doctor came and put a port in my artery on my left arm. This hurt. A lot. My arms were still swollen and I could hear him muttering under his breath, urging the needle to find my artery. Putting in the port turned out to be a good thing because they needed to take multiple blood samples every day so instead of poking me with a needle each time, they could just take blood from the port.

*Around 2:00am, I was transferred to a quarantine room to give me privacy and so I could sleep better. I later found out that D had talked with the doctors and requested that I be put in a private room.

Day 5: After hardly sleeping, I started the day with the wonderful news that I could eat food. I had not eaten for two whole days. But. Eating proved to be a challenge as I had about 4 IV needles/tubes (plus the port) in my left and right arms, making me quite immobile. I also had about 5 wires attached to me, measuring my blood pressure, heart rate etc. I developed a neck-ache that wouldn’t go away and I think this was largely due to being immobile and uncomfortable. I also remember feeling very hot. Apparently, this could be attributed to HELLP and the medication I was on.

Meanwhile, at the other hospital where A still was, a core group of people had formed Team Alisa: D, my mom, brother-in-law and mother-in-law. They worked in shifts to feed her, hold her and put her to sleep every day from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. I am so so thankful for all the time they put in so that A would feel loved.

D and my mom came for a visit around lunchtime. The visit was way too short. D came again with my brother-in-law in the evening and D requested to talk to a doctor about my condition. We finally saw Dr H that night. He showed us a couple print outs of my numbers and explained what the numbers represented. He also explained what all the medication was that I was being injected with. My numbers were apparently crazy when I arrived at the ER. They were starting to calm down but were still abnormal.

I found out that if I had given birth to A naturally, the doctors would not have taken my blood. It was because I had a c-section that they took my blood and were able to discover that I had HELLP. I hate to think what might have happened if I hadn’t gotten a c-section. It’s like A knew she needed to stay put the three days I was in labor.

Day 6: Third day in the ICU. The days feel incredibly long. With no phone, I had absolutely no contact with the outside world. I watched the nurses and hospital staff running to and fro. I would listen to each ambulance that came and pray for the patient and hospital staff. I would watch the clock on the wall and count down the hours until breakfast, lunch, dinner and when D and my mom were planning on visiting. I even counted the tiles on the ceiling. More than once.

D and my mom came and visited me again as they did every day. They both showed me pictures of A and told me how she was doing. I both loved and hated seeing the pictures and hearing the stories. Loved it because she was so beautiful and she was mine. Hated it because my heart would break each time and there was nothing I could do about it.

Neck-ache has worsened and can’t even turn my head fully. Needed to request pain killers because I was in tears from the pain. The nurses were so kind as they did everything they could to try to make me comfortable. They talked with me, gave me “bed baths” and answered all my questions even though they were busy and stressed being ICU nurses. I also had a midwife check on me every day and see if I was lactating. I would cry every time because I had milk coming out but I couldn’t give it to A. First, because she was at a different hospital but second, even if she was at the same hospital, I wouldn’t be able to feed her because of all the medication I was on.

I clung to a verse my dad had written out for me: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Day 7: Fourth day in the ICU. Transferred from quarantine room (because another patient actually needed to be quarantined) to a room with 3 other patients. Still experiencing a lot of pain in my neck and taking pain killers every 6 hours.

This was probably the worst day so far. I hit a wall and couldn’t control my emotions. I would look at A’s picture and start sobbing…which would make my blood pressure skyrocket…which would set off my blood pressure alarm…which would bring the nurses scurrying over to check on me.

I sobbed when my parents came to visit me. I sobbed again when D came. D patiently rubbed my back and told me to breathe slowly so my blood pressure would come down. Even though it was an awful day emotionally, I think I got about 4 hours of sleep that night whereas all the other nights I had only had a couple hours.

Day 8: Fifth day in the ICU and I am so over it. Still struggling with incredible pain in my neck and shoulders.

Had the ICU head nurse bring the good news that I’m being transferred to the general ward! I also had a doctor come and take out my port since my numbers were looking much better and I wouldn’t need to get my blood taken multiple times a day.

There were no beds available in the maternity ward at first so I was taken to a delivery room. Yes. A delivery room. Where they deliver babies. What a joke! But I was so happy to be out of the ICU that I didn’t care. And I was finally given permission to walk! I had been stretching and doing strengthening exercises as much as I could while in bed but it’s a whole new ball game when you try to stand up and support your own weight! I was so surprised at how weak I was.

Dr K, Dr A and Dr N came to talk to D and I about my numbers that evening. Things are looking much better but I still need to be monitored closely. Just not as closely as I was in the ICU. Dr A talked to us about the importance of A being near me, her mother. He mentioned how he would contact the other hospital and do everything he could to get her over to this hospital. So so thankful.

Day 9: Today is the day A is coming!! After much discussion with the other hospital, it was finally arranged that a private ambulance would go pick A up from the other hospital and bring her to me. D and one of the doctors went in the ambulance, put A in an incubator and safely transported her to my hospital.

I was transferred to my 6th and final bed location in the general women’s ward (since there was nothing available in the maternity ward).

I couldn’t go see A until 17:00 since they were doing a bunch of tests and paperwork for her to be admitted into the NICU. Even though she was perfectly healthy, the only way to admit her to the same hospital as me was to have her in the NICU. And the only people who could see her were D and I. We had to scrub our hands and don blue hospital gowns before we could see her. I definitely cried when I saw her again and held her in my arms. I can’t quite explain all the emotions I was feeling. It was pretty overwhelming, let’s just put it that way.

Day 10: Today A is one week old and I get to be with her! D came in the morning today and we headed to the NICU to learn how to bathe A. I had D do the bathing and I just watched because I didn’t have enough strength in my arms since they were still weak and bruised from where all the needles were.

I’ve started to walk faster with my back straighter. Feeling stronger day by day. It helps to have A here at the same hospital. Knowing she’s just down the hall from me keeps me going.

Day 11: I woke up with the sun this morning and couldn’t stop a smile from forming on my face. I could go and see the darling face of my daughter and hold her in my arms!

It made me think of the verse my mom had shared with me: “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

I got my staples removed from my c-section surgery today. Dr. K came to remove them and when he found that I was part American, began speaking to me in English (which was actually quite good) and distracted me from the fact that he was pulling out the staples. It pinched a little but I am so glad they are out. It just means I’m one step closer to getting released and going home!

Day 12: My days are quite busy now as I go to see A every few hours to feed her, change her, bathe her and hold her. I am so thankful that I can finally breastfeed her!

Ended the day on a rough note. My regular 3 doctors came and told me that my liver numbers were still not where they should be and that I would be staying at the hospital through the 3-day holiday weekend. Although I had mentally prepped myself for this news, I was still incredibly disappointed. I cried in front of the doctors out of frustration. I thought I was doing much better. I felt so much better. Everyone who visited me told me I looked great. Why didn’t my liver get with the program?

Day 13: Dr. K came to see me this morning. He checked on my incision and told me it looked clean. He then looked me in the eye and told me (in English), “You must be patient with yourself. You were nearly dead when you came to this hospital.” Wait, what? WHAT?!

He repeated this a couple more times because I think he could tell that I wasn’t quite getting it. I was in shock. My hands were shaking as I texted D. He replied with “God wanted you to be with Alisa.”

I cried a lot of tears because I didn’t know what else to do. I was filled with a mixture of emotions. Surprise and shock were the initial emotions. Surprise that death could come so easily and unexpectedly. Shock that I might have left D wifeless and A motherless. These emotions were followed by gratitude and thankfulness. Gratitude to the hospital staff for acting quickly and efficiently. Thankfulness to God for saving my life and giving me another chance. Fear was also lurking in the background. Fear that I would not get better and suffer complications like heart disease from HELLP in the future. It’s hard not to let the fear overwhelm the other emotions.

Day 14: Feeling emotionally stable today. Cried only once when I held A, thanking God for her and begging God to give me many years with her.

Now when I close my eyes, I can see A’s face and when I am quiet, I can hear her cries. Being separated from her for six days was so awful but that pain is slowly fading each time I see her, feed her, touch her, hold her.

I am so happy to be alive. I feel and see things differently now. I am so happy to be married to D. I am so happy to be A’s mother. I am so thankful to live another day.

Day 15: Nervous about blood tests tomorrow. Depending on the results, I can go home or be stuck in the hospital until who knows when. I know it’s better if my numbers are back to normal before being released so I need to be patient but it’s just so hard to say goodbye to D every day and to be apart from A even though we are in the same hospital.

Day 16: Rough start to the day. All the other new moms in my room are being released to go home. Am I going to be left alone in this room? How awful would that be?

I thought I was doing well emotionally but broke down in tears multiple times. I had visitors but I don’t think I was good company as I kept getting tears in my eyes and getting depressed.

Received the most wonderful news at the end of the day that my numbers have stabilized and I can go home!! Crying again but this time from joy. I need to go in for weekly checkups for the next 3 months but I’m willing to make the trek to the hospital every week if it means I can go home.

Day 17: Finally going home!!! Oh happy happy day. The paperwork took way longer than we thought but we finally got everything taken care of. It felt so strange to walk out of a hospital I had spent the last two weeks in. It really felt like I was being set free.

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I’d like to say a big thank you to the amazing staff at Nihon University Itabashi Hospital and to all of you who are nurses, doctors, EMTs etc. It is because of dedicated people like you that I am alive today. Your hard dedication has not gone unnoticed. And thank you to my family who rallied around me in so many ways.

One final note to those of you who are pregnant or are planning to be in the future: HELLP and pre-eclampsia are life-threatening conditions and are often misdiagnosed. If you feel like you might have some or any of the symptoms, ask your doctor to run some tests! Here are some links you can look at for more information:

http://www.healthline.com/health/hellp-syndrome#Overview1

http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0901/p829.html

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me!

May 8, 2014

me!

I was doing a handstand and vam productions also took this photo:

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May 1, 2014

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初雪

December 29, 2011

My first WordPress post from my iPhone!!

Sorry the functions are different than on my laptop so it’s going to be a bit ghetto til I figure things out but bear with me, por favor.

Loving my end-of-year vacation here in Nagano.

So much has happened this year. One thing that definitely did NOT happen was this blog. Still feeling bad about that.

Anyway, I’m here in Nagano to refresh and recharge for the new year.

I’ve been to the hot springs twice already.

Tried sitting in the sauna for 5 minutes today but at about three and a half minutes, my earlobes started burning!! That was a new experience.

Came out of the hot spring to find it snowing!! It’s beautiful and white out.

Oh, and yes, baby it IS cold outside.

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A year gone by…

November 7, 2011

Dear me, it’s been a year since I last wrote.

How utterly unforgivable.

And I know it’s not Tuesday but I’m sure that’s forgivable.

But thanks to persistent people and inspiring friends, I’ve decided to start this up again.

So much has happened since I last wrote but one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for this country that I live in.

I’d like to refocus my blog to be about my reflections and my travels.

I hope you don’t mind but really, I give you no choice but to accept.

Here are a few photos from this past year (more to come, I will make sure of that!)

<March 2011: Tokyo’s Shibuya with all the screens turned off to save electricity>

<A beautiful sunset in my neighborhood>

<early April 2011: Late blooming sakura because of the long cold winter>

<Definitely wish I had gone out for coffee a lot more with my now Scottish friend>

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八王子

November 2, 2010

My new “home” away from home…aka the place I spend quite a number of hours every week because it’s my new work place.

Hachioji is a beautiful city. It’s on the western edge of Tokyo with the mountains along the western border and lots of green among the buildings that still make it a decent sized city.

I work on the 8th floor of a department store with fabulously large windows that look down on the station and off in the distance, I can see the outline of the mountains guarding the border of Tokyo.

Today as I was walking back to my work booth, I looked out the windows and saw a soft sunset with gorgeous windswept clouds tinged in gold.

My first thought: Oh my.

Second thought: Why didn’t I bring my camera?

Third thought: Even if I did have my camera, I wouldn’t be able to get a good picture because of the window reflection and I would end up being depressed that I couldn’t capture the moment of beauty on camera.

Fourth thought: Just savor the moment.

So, I apologize for the lack of photos but I hope you understand when I say that there are just certain glimpses of beauty that would be destroyed if we tried to get it on camera.

I hope you are able to savor moments of beauty this week.

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TokyoSigns

October 26, 2010

The signs of fall are here and there…the persimmon trees full of fruit…the cattails in the empty lot by my house…the leaves just barely starting to turn colors.

But! Despite these signs, winter is just around the corner. And so I ask…

Where has the fall gone? It feels like just yesterday that the summer heat was lingering in the air but now here I sit with the heater on and bundled in a hoodie and fleece robe. I can hear the bitter cold wind howling outside.

The first snow has fallen in several parts of Japan and it sure feels like it could snow even in Tokyo. I think the forecast said that the roads will be covered in frost tomorrow morning.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons and I wish I could tell it to stay and keep winter at bay. Sadly, I will be the first to admit that I have no such control.

Throughout this year I’ve taken a small collection of photos and put them in a file titled “TokyoSigns”. As the name suggests, the photos are of ad posters or signs that I have seen around Tokyo…

On my way from Harajuku Station to Yoyogi Park: Tokyo Olympics 1964

In Shinjuku: innocently Tokyo…

I remember laughing out loud with my friend when I saw this…the combination of what it says and how it’s written is priceless. For those who can’t read Japanese it says “We will sharpen your knives” (at the local supermarket)

At Tokyo Station: for those who don’t know what to do in the bathroom…

Well-said, wise bard. As always. (In a restaurant in Omotesando)