The past few weeks have been memorable at the Bristow household, and as much as I promised myself I would do not work while I was on maternity leave, I felt compelled to share a few experiences.
After 37 weeks of an “easy” pregnancy, no major complications, just the usual joys and challenges of pregnancy, it was decided that, medically speaking, it was in my best interest to have a repeat C-section. There was a tinge of disappointment but I obliged as I trust my OB practice completely, and my only goal this pregnancy was to deliver a healthy baby. I am a type A planner, planning and certainty are my allies, but to know exactly when you are going to meet your new baby is an unusual feeling.
On Wednesday, August 14, we welcomed Clayton “Evans” Bristow to the family, a precious little child of God who has made our family complete. The immediate outpour of love from friends and family could not have been any more amazing - help with meals, help with the big kids, checking in on our house - our hearts were full. We left the hospital and headed home on Saturday as a new family of 5, but ultimately this would be a short stay. The first night we put all three kids to bed we literally felt like we had run a marathon, and with Austin running the house while I recovered, I would consider his duties more like an ultra =)
The start of the following week was busy with the big kids settling in to school, pediatrician visits for Evans and working to get him back to birth weight, an unfortunate orthopaedic appointment for Parker (its about time she catches up with Webb and breaks a bone, right? She flew over the handlebars of her bike...fearless!) and a sudden trip back to the OB for me.
As a Type one diabetic, I know my body well. I know when things are running smoothly and I know when things aren’t quite right. In this case I knew something wasn’t right. I was swollen like the Michelin Man with relentless headaches, a continuous dry cough, and my blood pressure was on the rise. On Thursday morning I was re-admitted to Northside and quickly diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia, a dangerous medical condition about which I knew very little.
Rewind to the weekend before we met Evans, we had to make the painful decision to put Porter, our 14 year old Springer Spaniel, to rest. Austin and I joke that we loved Porter before we loved each other. All kidding aside, we had no idea the sadness we would experience saying goodbye to him, and it made us think about all the friends we know who have said goodbye to a pet (a member of the family, really) and how we truly didn’t understand because we hadn’t experienced it. In a strange way, pre-eclampsia felt the same. I know people who have experienced it, but I had no idea the severity of until experiencing it myself. Yes, it means you have elevated blood pressure, but it also increases your risk for seizure and swelling of the brain, causes weakening of the heart muscles, and can put you at a higher risk of developing serious health complications in the future. Scary stuff!
We were fortunate to be in the care of excellent doctors and nurses at Northside Hospital. While this is a very serious medical condition, it is also not uncommon and the team at Northside were highly qualified to treat me. The Staff created a treatment plan, administered specific medications to reduce swelling and fluid retention, and after 30 hours of in-patient care, my symptoms began to clear and vital signs returned to normal ranges. The doctors were confident in releasing me from the hospital and wrote strict home-care instructions to follow.
Evans is now 10 days old and we are all home together under one roof, each with a new role. Austin continues to run the ranch and keep us all in one piece (and is succeeding!) I am trying to rest and be a good patient, Webb is busy loving on the baby, Parker is collecting signatures all up and down her cast, and Evans, well, we are just glad he’s here and healthy... even if he does have his days and nights confused.
We have all learned a tremendous amount through this experience. First, the support of family and friends means everything. They made an incredibly difficult situation feel manageable, ,like we weren’t going through this alone. We could not have gotten through this without everyone who stepped in for jobs big and small. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
Next, we can never take our health for granted. I feel healthy day to day, and I look healthy, but that doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong. I have never had elevated blood pressure in my life until this experience, and it quickly became life threatening. My doctor went so far as to tell my husband that had I not been in such good health - eating a diet which I/we do and making exercise a priority - this story may have had a very different ending. Since my diagnosis with T1D, health and wellness have been top priorities, but our job now is to up-level and make changes that will continue to serve us in the future.
Lastly, we must listen when our bodies speak to us. I have always heard people say our bodies are smart and intuitive and I couldn’t agree more. Whether it means listening to the cues that tell us we need rest, a dietary change, or to make that call to the doctor, you, and your health, are worth it.
For now, self care looks like fresh juices, salads, and whole foods (not the store, but alllll the fruits and veggies), frequent naps, lots of reading, and baby snuggles- doctors orders.