Thursday, 7 April 2016

Our Birth Story and my Anxiety 'Meltdown'

During the later stages of my wife's pregnancy, she began to show signs of preeclampsia (one of the main factors is high blood pressure, among other effects). Luckily she was being regularly monitored at check-up appointments with her gynecologist. Additionally, the twins were both in a breech position, and therefore she had a c-section booked for late December 2015 (the full term due date was early January 2016). Without getting into too much detail, during one check-up with her gynecologist (I want to say 'our' gynecologist, as I regularly went to the appointments with her, but the doctor obviously wasn't checking me..) at the end of November 2015, the effects of preeclampsia were starting to surpass the 'safe' limit. Sarah's doctor admitted her into the hospital for monitoring, and decided to move the c-section date closer. At that time we didn't know an exact date for the c-section. I planned to keep going to work each day, as it was just a waiting game now, Sarah was doing fine in hospital, and I wanted to save vacation time for when the twins were born. The next morning, Sarah gives me a call at work and states that the c-section has been booked for the following morning! We were both a bit stunned, scared, and excited that it was to happen so soon. Finally, the moment we have been waiting for is here, although a bit sudden! The twins will be born about a month premature, however everything has shown that they are in good health and growing well.

That night, I stayed with Sarah in her room at the hospital, sleeping on a cot. The morning of December 2nd arrives and it was an anxious (although a good anxious) waiting game for the nurse to arrive. A nurse eventually arrives and we are moved to another room nearby to the O.R. to prepare and wait. At this point, I remember feeling quite nervous, probably even more so than my wife. We are then taken into the O.R., everything gets set up, Sarah was given a spinal anesthetic, and the c-section begins. We were told ahead of time that there would be many people in the O.R. at once, which there were, as there was a team for Sarah, and a team for each of the babies once delivered. Our daughter, Ava, was delivered first, without issue, and was brought over near to Sarah's face after briefly being looked over by the team. A minute later, our son, John, was born. The team looked him over and for a few moments there was some anxiety as they did not bring him over and we did not know what was going on. Eventually we were told that he was having a bit of trouble breathing, but he was doing fine. I was able to get a few pictures while in the O.R., however with everything that was going on, I realized afterwards that I missed a few opportunities, oh well.

Our twins were then moved to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and I followed the team that took John, while they were continuing work with my wife in the O.R. They got each of them set up in incubators and monitored their vitals. At this time John was getting a bit of help breathing with extra oxygen being provided to him. I stayed with them for a bit, then went back to find Sarah. She was in the recovery room at this time and I ensured her that the twins were doing fine. After a period of waiting, Sarah eventually regained feeling and control of her lower body. She was then brought to see the twins, while still in a bed, and then moved to a private hospital room. At this time, I went to find family that were waiting at the hospital, and to make some phone calls. Later in the day, we were both able to be with the twins, hold them, and try feeding them.

The next couple days were very tiring, as Sarah's room was separated from where the twins were, and we attempted to make visits to the NICU area every 2 or 3 hours for the twin's feeding time. After a couple days, John was doing well and was moved out of the NICU and up to Sarah's room. This seemed to make things more difficult, as now our twins were separated, and we had to each go individually to the NICU to see Ava, while someone remained in Sarah's room with John. One night, as Sarah came back to her room (accompanied by a nurse) after seeing Ava, she broke down crying. Ava was having breathing apneas, and had an episode while Sarah was there. This is a scary moment to experience, as the monitoring equipment Ava is connected would detect that she stopped breathing, alarms would go off, and nurses would rush over. Luckily, Ava started breathing again on her own and was fine, however it is a traumatic experience.

This was the state of things at the time, which was very overwhelming, and I was becoming exhausted and feeling some anxiety,  I noticed at this time that I am becoming dehydrated and loosing my appetite. As it was very dry in the hospital, I was able to obtain some Gatorade to try to get hydrated again. One evening, as Sarah, John, and myself are in the hospital room, I start to feel uncontrollable anxiety (panic attack). I eventually gain some control of the anxiety and break down crying, loosing all control of my emotions. It is important to know that I have suffered from elevated anxiety for all of my adult life and was on a daily medication to help control it. Anxiety runs through a lot of my family. I realized after this event that the dehydration and loss of appetite was most likely caused by the anxiety.

Following the 'meltdown' moment, we called a nurse in to ask if there was any on-site help (whether it be a doctor who could give me a temporary medication, or a counselor of some kind). Talking with the nurse helped some, but really there was nothing the hospital could offer me as a father, as it was a children's and women's hospital. It is unfortunate that the hospital doesn't have some sort of support in this area, as very sick children and newborns come to this hospital and I know there are parents who go through many traumatizing experiences. The next day I got an appointment with my doctor who prescribed a higher dose of the medication I was on, in addition to another medication which is fast acting for when any panic attacks may arise in the near future. This allowed me to gain control over my anxiety and allowed me to be there for my new family.

A day or two later, Sarah and John were discharged from the hospital and we headed home (about a 1/2 hour away, depending on traffic). It felt good to be home and get settled. We continued to spend some of each day in the hospital with Ava, where our family was all together again. Ava had a few more breathing apnea episodes, mainly during feeding, and therefore needed to stay in hospital to be monitored. Eventually, after 12 days in the NICU section of the hospital, the doctors were happy with Ava's progress and she was able to come home with us. It was good to finally have everyone home.

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