I'll never forget when we found out we were pregnant with our second baby.
It was a MASSIVE shock and so much fear surrounded it.
I was still breastfeeding Hezekiah, and he was still just a little baby in our eyes - he was 13months when we found out. At that stage I was still recovering from our first pregnancy. I had only just started to resume any form of real exercise and was finally starting to feel stronger and like I was getting back to myself.
I did not feel emotionally ready for another baby - although I wanted more one day. Hezekiah's journey was a huge roller-coaster - as was the recovery.... I did not feel equipped or prepared when we first found out.
All I could hear in my head was the doctors saying - if you want to have more children - you must wait - probably at least 4 years...… and I could hear what my family would say.... their worry and concern.... if I'm honest there was a lot of fear... and very little excitement from me especially in those first few weeks.... and then the HG kicked in (hyperemesis gravidium) … I had forgotten how bad it was... but this time... I also had a toddler and a working husband..... from 4 weeks I was in bed all day... any time I tried to get up I would vomit large quantities and often end up on the floor...
it was a hard balance of trying to stay hydrated and keep anything down. The only benefit was that we'd been through it was before... so tried to get a head of the dehydration before it got as bad as the first time.
It was a really hard time... trying to care for myself and the growing baby.... and an active 13 month old... who had just had to stop breastfeeding almost overnight with no warning. My milk dried up almost instantly and Hezekiah could not understand at all what was happening - it broke my heart hearing him cry for me as Rob would try and soothe him in another room, while I'd be vomiting and so incredibly weak.
But the weeks went by somehow, around 7/8 weeks I started having some bleeding and cramping and was taken for another ultrasound - the sonographer knew us from our previous pregnancy and had seen what we'd gone through the first time. He said and wrote on the report - unlikely that this pregnancy will be viable. He sent us home with strict bedrest for the next 2 weeks and then told us to come back ( strange since I was already on bedrest completely with the HG) … we did as were instructed and shared the news with two friends in Australia, asking them to pray - pray for the baby, for me for peace and for our family and Dr's who we still hadn't told at that stage, pray that they would receive the news well.
After 2 weeks we went back for an ultrasound - and to the sonographers shock and delight - the baby was doing well - he said - I didn't expect this but I shouldn't be surprised with the miracles we saw in your first pregnancy.
We went home happy, and trying to rejoice, in amongst the fear of what was to come and the chronic sickness.
We eventually shared with our family over video the ultrasound video.... I'll never forget my parents reaction - especially my mothers.... but, but Leah..... what about what the Dr's said.... our response was simply, " we guess God had other plans".
Telling my younger brother and his wife was really difficult. They were only a few months away from moving to Uganda - for what was suppose to be at least 12 months. They had given notice at work and started packing and preparing to come. They were very happy for us, and decided they would still come at least for a few months.
It was a difficult time, physically so weak from the HG, emotionally from feeling like the timing was terrible ( especially with wanting to stay and be with my bro and sister in law and nieces who were coming) and then with not knowing what this time was going to be like. With knowing what we'd been through the first time, we weren't sure if I would experience the swinging uterus again, and would I have to contend with the possibility of an incarcerated uterus again.
Wondering if we could we prevent it this time, because we knew now?
We eventually told our Doctors in Australia - who's recommendation was to try and get home before 18 weeks - 24 weeks ( where the biggest risk was for the incarcerated uterus) but they also knew I needed to be well enough to cope with the journey on my own.
Once again it looked like I'd have to go on my own - this time leaving Hezekiah to come with daddy, as I was not allowed, and was unable to carry him.
This was incredibly heartbreaking realizing I'd have to leave Rob and Hezekiah this time, and my brother and sister in law and nieces, who would have only been here a few weeks when it would be time for me to go.
At around 14 weeks - it became pretty clear that this journey may reflect the first one in many ways - I started to notice again that I would wake and have no tummy, then it would reappear. So once again I spent many hours hanging between two lounge chairs trying to prevent the incarcerated uterus from happening again. This became a normal part of the new routine again....
The one joy I had to focus on and keep me motivated was my little brother, and SIL and nieces arrival and thankfully when they arrived, I was 18 weeks, the HG while still there, but had subsided enough for me to be able to at least get out of bed and function with medications to help with the vomiting and nausea. We got to spend a few weeks showing them around and these are memories I really treasure. It was also a gift, because for Hezekiah he had the constant distraction of his two nieces to play and entertain him when mummy was gone.
But that day at the airport was one I will never forget - the screaming of Hezekiah as they walked away as I went through security - was a real breaking of the heart. He had no idea what was going on - or where mummy was going.
When I returned to Australia I was quickly put back in under the same team at John Hunter Hospital and thankfully I had almost the identical team as the first time, which made a huge difference with not having to explain things and having that understanding from them.
As with Hezekiah, I had the swinging uterus, so spent a lot of time on my hands and knees - or resting between two chairs to prevent the uterus from becoming incarcerated again. It became clear around 24 weeks again that the swinging was stressing the baby again, as there had been very minimal growth in between ultrasounds over a period of time. I was put on more medication to try and stabilize the excessive pain, which they hoped would calm the baby and help with the growth.
The further a long we went, the more excruciating the pain was becoming - the pain was bad the first time, but it doubled in the second pregnancy's because my body hadn't healed completely from the first pregnancy.
As with Hezekiah I had issues with my hormone levels ( a part of the condition I was born with) so was in and out of hospital and on ever increasing medications to try and stabilize my cortisol levels etc etc.
Numbers of times throughout the pregnancy the doctors stating what a miracle it was that this little baby had survived that first trimester with all the issues I had again, and with my uterus so traumatized from the first one.
Finally Rob and Hezekiah joined us in Australia, which brought so much joy and relieve, and help.
By the end of the pregnancy I was very heavily medicated, it was the only option to help stabilize the pain and to stabilize the hormones. They continued to monitor Ezrael's growth and found that while the medication was helping, it was highly likely he too would suffer withdrawals when born for the amount of medication I was on.
The day he was born ended up being much less straight forward then our first C-section.
After trying around 15 times to find a vein for the cannula they finally got one ( had that same issue first time too, and often too - I have my grandma's tissue veins) , then it took multiple times to get the spinal block in the correct place. By the time the actual surgery even started I was already feeling very weak - but it was going to get a lot more difficult.
About 20 minutes into the surgery I said to Rob - they are taking a lot longer than last time, our beautiful surgeon ( who' also been there for Hezekiah's birth) said, "I'm so sorry Leah - there is just so much scar tissue from all your previous surgeries - we are having a difficult time getting through it all".
That's why the pressure was so much worse this time - the pulling and pushing sensations that you get were pretty intense this time.
Finally after about 35minutes - she said -" Finally" and then there was a little cry and we heard her say - "oh you are a lot smaller than your brother" ( I was thinking - smaller? really he was suppose to be bigger! Hezekiah was small enough)
Here he was and he was a he..... we had known he was going to be a boy - but I had questioned that a few times - but here he was.
They held him for a few minutes over the top of my abdomen and allowed for delayed cord clamping as I had asked. Then they whisked him off to check on him.
Rob went with him and I lay there waiting for them to insert the pain blocks they give me into my abdomen before stitching me up.
|Struggling to get through all the scar tissue from multiple abdominal surgeries I've had over the years.|
|Finally they got him out|
They bought the TV screen close to I could see him being worked on, with Rob watching over him closely. At that stage we still didn't have a name.
Finally our midwife bought him over for me to have a look at and they to have a little skin on skin contact, after a few minutes I said, " I am feeling a bit strange, you may need to take him" they took him away and Rob followed them.
The surgeons were still busy at work, and the anesthetist was busy chatting with them and monitoring the machines and the midwives were busy working on Ezrael and Rob was with them.
I started to feel even more strange - (I've had a lot of surgeries and its not unusual for me to have some weird feelings or side affects from all the medications)
As time went I started to realize, it was not just pressure I was feeling now - it was pain, the pain of a needle or something pushing through me, and then pulling, the pain increased, I tried to get the attention of those around me, but I was struggling to talk, both my arms at this stage were strapped down as I had medications going in both arms, I couldn't wave for anyone. I kept calling - but not much sound was coming out and there was a lot of noise going on in the room, the pain was increasing, I could feel them stitching up my insides... the pain was excruciating, I started to feel like I was going to blackout, this went on for what they suspect was about 10 -15 minutes. My body started to shake and my beautiful midwife happened to glance over and saw and she left Ezrael with the rest of the team and she leaned down and said "whats going on Leah, how are you feeling?" and amidst the shaking I said, " I can feel everything..... I'm going to blackout". ….. she got the attention of the anesthetist who was nearby - he came over, and read the other machines, looked at me and gasped, " oh my goodness she's feeling them, and he instructed the Dr's to stop...… they injected more medicines and eventually the machines and everything levelled and they began again …. it took quite some time, I kept feeling like I was going into shock, poor Rob stood by concerned and wanting to help, but didn't want to get in the way.
He tried talking to me and tried to distract me from the excruciating pain I was still feeling - waiting for the medication to kick back in.... after some time the pain subsided - now it was just back to the pressure feeling, the Dr came over and apologized profusely, " I'm so so sorry Leah, since the c-section has gone a lot longer, the anesthetic had started wearing off, we just didn't expect the amount of scar tissue that they found today - I'm so so sorry you were suffering there", he wiped my tears and I could see how sorry he was.
|Feeling very alone as the pain kicked in and anaesthestic wore off|
|Finally got their attention and able to share what I was feeling|
After being wheeled to recovery I was incredibly weak and they placed me on oxygen as I just wasn't doing well - I slept in and out while my midwife tried to express my milk for them to give to Ezrael - he was stable at this stage so was in recovery with us.
The anesthetist came and checked on me in recovery and apologized again, he said he'd never had that happen before and he was so sorry. For me and Rob despite how horrible it was - the whole C-section had gone very differently to how they had thought and planned, so it was no one's fault it was just what it was.
Later after recovery they took me down to our private room on the ward, the plan was the same as with Hezekiah that Rob would stay the whole time to help care for me.
Once we got down to the ward, our specialist and midwife started to explain the care management for me to the nurses on the ward - they all looked at each other, it was clear that it was going to be too much here.
Our specialist and midwife did some ringing and before too long we were being taken back upstairs - I slept and when I woke I was in a large room - I had no idea where we were - the midwife said, they had decided to set up a critical care room for me upstairs at the back of the delivery suite unit - near NICU, as Ezrael was going down hill and they believed he would be going there soon.
I had my own nurse and midwife for the next 3 days - who's sole job was to care for me and all the machines I was attached to.
Not long after they bought my mum and dad in and Hezekiah to meet Ezrael - it was a special moment seeing the boys together for a few moments.
Mum and dad had some time to say hello to Ezrael and then he was taken to NICU where he would spend the next 2 weeks.
|Inside our high-care maternity room - we had such an amazing team caring for us|
I didn't see Ezrael again till the next day - Rob and my nurse would help to express my milk while I was very heavily medicated, and they would take turns taking it to the NICU.
The next day, they wheeled me through the back corridors between the delivery suit and NICU and I saw ezrael - he wasn't doing great at that stage - they wheeled my bed as close to him as possible, I wasn't able to sit up very much so it was difficult, but I had a few moments with him. They hooked up my oxygen to his oxygen machine, and the nurses smiled and said " you guys are sharing oxygen together still, even after birth :)
|Sharing oxygen together on my visits to NICU|
Over the next few days the nurses would go to the huge effort of wheeling my whole bed from one ward to the next often through the middle of the night, whenever I got upset that I wanted to see him, they'd unhook all the machines and go to all the effort to try and give me those few moments with him a few times a day.
Ezrael was suffering hypothermia, and was really struggling with breathing - so was on oxygen for a number of days and also placed on CPAP. He struggled to keep down his feeds and was weak for a long time. We heard a number of times the Dr's saying, he is acting more like a 34 weeker than a 36weeker - at the time I didn't think anything of it - more on that later.
|Finally getting a real hold after 5 days|
After about 2 days - after a lot of praying on our part (mostly Rob as I was pretty heavily medicated) we came up with the name Ezrael. Ezrael meaning God is my strength/empowered by God
Amani (Swahili - meaning loyal, faithful and peaceful) Colin - meaning Victorious - after my dad.
Both our boys names meant something to do with strength from God - because we knew we would not have them in our arms today - if God hadn't strengthened and empowered them. We also chose middle names with the characteristics we prayed that that little one would have.
After 3 days in high care maternity, Rob and I were taken back down to the ward - I still wasn't walking but no longer on as many machines so was able to have a nurse who cared for other patients also.
We spent the next 2 weeks there. Rob would go back and forth between me and NICU, helping to care for Ezrael, helping me express, helping with my physio etc etc.
They are weeks of great physical pain for me, but also feeling greatly blessed to have such a wonderful husband, and feeling blessed at the gift of being a mum.
Most days I only see Ezrael once when they wheel me up to NICU, Rob takes photos and videos for me to stay connected to him.
As Ezrael gets stronger they bring him down for little visits, and eventually he got to a stage where he was able to sleep with us, while still being monitored by the NICU team.
Ezrael suffered medication withdrawals ( as did Hezekiah), so they are monitored closely for all the signs of opioid withdrawal. Its not a nice thing to see your baby shaking, having tremors, in pain and struggling to feed from the medications you've had to take - but I am so thankful for the amazing team who journeyed through the whole process with us.
First night sleeping in with us at hospital - Rob on pull out bed next to his little boy
|All tubes finally gone|
After our few weeks stay in hospital - we were finally released home. And then the recovery begins.
5 weeks in a wheelchair, months on a crutch as my body was really struggling to recover this time.
|home with our boys - the journey to recovery begins|
|First sunday at church - 6 weeks old|
The original plan was that we would all try and return to Uganda together before Rob's 6 month visa ran out. It became pretty clear when ezrael was about 3 months old that that wasn't going to be possible - I was still struggling with recovery and on a lot of medication, and Ezrael was still very little and struggling with feeding, so we hadn't even begun the process of weaning off the medications.
When ezrael was 12 weeks old - Rob flew back to Uganda..... it was going to be an incredibly difficult 6 months apart.
When we finally did start the withdrawal process, it became clear quickly, that Ezrael was struggling with the rate we were coming down off the medications. He was constantly having tremors, diarrhea, crying in distress (a unique cry that is hard to describe unless you've been around a baby having withdrawals), and unable to sleep ( he would wake 7 times within an hour) ….
So they had to slow it down even more.
It was an exhausting process - for us both.
But with God's miracles - we got there ( another post )
Hezekiah was a wonderful big brother and support to mummy - who was also experiencing the same withdrawal symptoms as Ezrael. I am so thankful as I look back for all those around us who supported us during that time.
It is incredibly difficult for people to understand chronic pain, or any of my conditions, and then to try and understand what opioid medication withdrawals are like, when they've never been through it, but I am grateful that people supported us and surrounded us, and stepped in to help and showed great compassion, even when it was hard for them to understand.
|7 weeks old|
Finally after 6 months apart - I returned to Uganda, with our two beautiful miracles.
It was only when I was back in Uganda - that we would realized why Ezrael was more like a 34 weeker - when I had originally returned to Australia I had accidently left my original scans.
At my first antenatal appointment in Australia - they asked me what the due date was - I was already pretty heavily medicated - and jetlagged, and had pregnancy brain, I said.... umm... and I said its either, this date or that date.... she said ok - and wrote one and said get rob to check.
I completely forgot about it, and because, although Ezrael was small on the scans, he was measuring bigger than Hezekiah did the whole way, so no one questioned.
So with the actual dates - Ezrael was born at 33 weeks and 4 days which explains the extra issues he had, compared to Hezekiah.
When I think back to Ezrael birth, it was certainly more traumatic than Hezekiah's actual birth, the excruciating pain of being without the anesthetic and the weakness I felt for months after - it was a long recovery.
While so much was similar to Hezekiah's pregnancy and birth, each had their own challenges and complications and both held so many miracles.
When our team ask how the miracle boys are - I am always reminded of just how blessed we are to have our two little boys.
And what a beautiful addition Ezrael has been to our family.