Monday, May 11, 2009

Let's rewind....

Hi! Before I begin, let me explain why I've started writing a blog for Carter. I had always wanted to start one when he was in the NICU, but could never really find the words to express how I was feeling. Now, almost a year later I have piles of pictures and videos (just got a new digital camcorder for mother's day...yay!!!!) that I would love to share with everyone. I know a lot of people didn't get to see Carter until he was much bigger so in this first post( which, I can assure you, will be a long one) I'm going to "rewind" back to December of '07 ...

Ok so this isn't exactly Dec fact it's from Sept 29 of 07
the day Joe and I were married....this is how it all began...

Alright, so it was Christmas of '07 and after having gone on a LONG honeymoon ( 12-day Mediterranean cruise) and eating entirely too much, I was begging Joe for an elliptical! So here I was, randomly gaining weight and coming down with some sort of horrible flu, and my only explanation was...DANG HONEYMOON!!...and of course all that Holiday weight gain :) So there were all those "usual" signs of pregnancy, but I really never believed it would happen, at least that quick! On December 27th we went out to look at ellipticals with, as Joe assured me, no promise of buying anything. But we did buy a lot of things, an elliptical, an exercise ball, a resistance band...and a pregnancy test..just in case.

After setting everything up and testing out all my new equipment in my "gym", (aka the spare room with all the crap in it) I figured I'd go take the test just to get it out of the way. I'll never forget that moment for the rest of my life. Joe was in the dining room trying to win money on some scratch-off lottery tickets that he got for Christmas, and I was in the bathroom...taking test, after test, after test...I used a package of 4 tests in about a 10 min period and I could not believe my eyes. I had so many theories of why there were 2 lines and not just one, two lines meaning I was pregnant of course. But after about 4 tests, all my theories went out the window. I called Joe into the bathroom and showed him the tests, he looked at them and then went right back to his lottery tickets, this time feverishly scratching at them...for some money. We were definitely going to need it!

I think Joe was way more excited than I was at first. My first thought was.."Oh my gosh, this is going to have to come out of me somehow!". Eventually, I started warming up to the idea of having a baby, afterall I was a Nanny and LOVE babies, I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to have my own. Morning sickness, or in my case 24-hr sickness, set in right away and slowly I realized that it wasn't the flu afterall. Thank God for my wonderful bosses who understood when I had to come in late or run to the bathroom every few minutes, I definitely would have been fired for sure somewhere else! I'm not going to lie, the first 4 1/2 months of my pregnancy were absolutely miserable! I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and for some reason he insisted on nestling into my left side and causing me so much pain that it landed me a trip to the emergency room, all this just 12 weeks in! And that, is how he got named "Monster", it was for sure a self fulfilling prophecy...he is still a little monster today (now you understand the title of the blog :) )

After about 20 weeks my nausea went away and I could actually live like a normal person, so we enrolled ourselves in the Bradley Birth Method Class and starting fighting about names. We settled on Sophia Antoinette, named for Joe's Grandma Toni (Antoinette) Goetschel, for a girl and we fought like dogs over a boys names. I liked Oliver or Milo, Joe said those were cats names, He liked Gavin or Colin, I said they sounded bad with our last name. At 22 weeks we had our ultrasound to find out the sex of the's a BOY!( 94% sure...what is that?!)...and the fight continued. We finally settled on Carter, after my Mom came to the rescue and suggested it (Thanks Mom!!) and that was that!

Let's see...that puts us at about 25-26 weeks and I'm feeling wonderful...loading up on McChicken sandwiches and McGriddles and the always tried and true, feel good food...BROWNIES!!! My little panic attacks about labor were slowly alleviated, thanks to our birthing class, and I was loving feeling Carter kick and swim around in there. He could kick so hard that he would kick my cell phone right off my belly! He would kick whenever I listened to the Beatle's and kick to the beat whenever his Daddy played his drums. I knew then that this child was special. All of that was short lived when at 26 weeks, my morning sickness made a hell of a comeback and I was literally brought to the ground by terrible back pain. This is where it truly began...

After 2 weeks of intense pain, sickness, and swollen feet that looked like they were straight out of the Nutty Professor, we finally had a doctor's appointment. When we arrived they tested my urine and took my blood pressure as always, but this time was different, this time they didn't say a word, they just took me back and strapped me to a non-stress test and said to push a button everytime the baby kicked. The baby wasn't kicking. After some juice and sitting still for a little bit, he began to do his thing...kicking wildly around as if he was reorganizing my insides. I thought all our worrying was done until the Doctor came in and he looked extremely concerned. He informed us that in the hour we had been there, my blood pressure went from 148/100 (which is already high) to 161/110. Not only was that a problem but there was tons of protein in my urine, I had gained 20 pounds in two weeks, where at that point I had only gained 10, and my legs were severely swollen. At this point it was obvious, I had pre-eclampsia, but what I didn't understand was how severe it actually was. We were told to go straight to the hospital for monitoring and that the rest of my pregnancy, however long that would be, would be lived out at St. Joe's Hospital. I was 29 weeks pregnant.

We arrived at the hospital at 12:30. My blood pressure spiked to 214/137 and we discovered that the blinding pain in my back was actually my liver...failing. A helicopter was sent from Loyola in Chicago to get me, but by the time they would have gotten there, sadly, I could have been dead. So in rushed a Neonatologist, an OB/GYN, a High Risk OB/GYN, an Ultra-sound tech, 3 NICU nurses, and was overwhelmed by information. A lot of people ask how I felt and I didn't know then, but the one word that comes to mind now is "numb". I couldn't feel anything, I was 29 weeks pregnant and the labor I had dreamed of just flew out the window and here I was being rushed into the OR for an emergency c-section.

The entire thing felt like a dream. Tons of nurses and doctors scrambling around, Joe wandering in dressed in his scrubs, which, by the way, looked adorable, and me, strapped down to a table, numb from the waist down, throwing up into a cup. Now there's a Rockwell moment for ya. Before I had even realized they started, he was here. On June 18, 2008 at 4:22 pm, my precious baby boy had entered the world...crying. I know when a baby is born they usually cry, but at 29 weeks, their lungs usually aren't developed enough to cry, but here was little Carter letting us know he was there. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard, followed by the 3 most heart breaking days of my life.

Carter was whisked away to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and I was transferred to the hospitals ICU (Intensive Care Unit), where I spent 3 days unable to see my baby boy. At that point, I still hadn't processed what had happened and still would put my hand on my belly every now and then just to feel his little feet kicking...when i felt nothing, I was shocked back to reality. So everyone saw Carter except me and I got the usual, "he's so beautiful" "he's so tiny" "congratulations!" comments, when really what everyone was thinking was "he's SO tiny" and "will he make it". It was scary, and definitely an experience I never want to have to go through again. Now enough about me...let's talk about Carter.

This is Joe's first time seeing baby Carter.
He was 3 lbs 2 oz and 15 inches, we were told
he was big for his age....imagine that.

Let me first start off by saying that I do not remember much from this time, which is why I regret never writing this earlier, the mind is a wonderful thing, it helps us forget our tragedies and remember the triumphs, but I will try and tell you the story, as best as I remember. Carter's stay in the NICU was quite the rollercoaster ride. With 24 hours he extubated himself twice only for us to discover that he didn't need a Ventilator. He was put on a nasal cannula and withing 4 weeks was breathing room air...AMAZING. The first time I saw him, I was overwhelmed, to say the least. He had IV's in his umbilical cord, a tube pumping oxygen into his tiny nose, little probes on this chest to monitor his A's and B's (apnea and brady spells: when his breathing or heart rate stopped or slowed), a little cuff on his foot to monitor his blood pressure, a feeding tube down his nose, and a diaper, the size of a maxi pad. Not to mention he was in a little isolette which was completely surrounded by machines and Nurses and papers and all sorts of things. Carter was the smallest and earliest baby they had ever had there.

We quickly got used to all the equipment around him but my heart never failed to skip a beat anytime the alarms went off, even if it was just because Carter had pulled off one of his probes and was holding it tightly in his little fist. He was famous for that, he pulled out feeding tubes, probes, his oxygen, anything he could get his little hands on...little monster. But that was a sign, that I didn't realize at the time, that he was a true fighter.

Holding him with all that equipment was a whole other story. It took two nurses and about 15 minutes to get him out of his isolette and onto my bear chest ( Kangaroo Care). This was the only way I could hold him in the beginning because he was too fragile and couldn't hold his temp long enough. Unfortunately, I have no pictures on my computer of this, but it is something I will never forget. His tiny little body, made heavier by all the tubes and cords, resting peacefully against my chest, and we would both doze off together, while I dreamt of the moment I could hold him in my own home, just him and I.

His stay in the NICU was pretty normal for a preemie but nerve wracking for me. Being a mom is scary, but being a mother to a premature baby who is in the NICU is terrifying. I would go in twice a day, every day, and just sit and watch my little baby, growing bigger and getting stronger everyday...unable to touch or hold him without permission and unable to get even one minute alone. I never thought the biggest question I would have on my mind everyday is "Did he poop today?", it seems funny now but at the time that's all I wanted, I wanted Carter to poop. The reason for this is NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or when part or all of the bowel and the intestines die), this could be fatal to a baby and Carter was not able to go on his own and was showing clear signs of NEC, bloated belly, blood in his stool, throwing up, being lethargic. They ran so many tests on him and all came back Negative. We couldn't figure out what the problem was and until we did, they stopped Carter's feeds, which meant he couldn't come home, for a long time. Eventually they figured out that all those symptoms were that of a Milk Protein allergy and they put him on formula, I was heartbroken. I was planning on breastfeeding and had been sent home with instructions to pump every 3 hours and bring the milk in to them to feed Carter, although it seems like nothing, to me, it was my job, it was MY way of taking care of my baby even though he was miles away in the hospital. I did not give up, I researched asked questions, spoke with a GI doc, I was determined. Meanwhile, Carter, at only 33 weeks gestation, drank an entire bottle, something most preemies can not do. Preemie babies have a hard time with sucking, swallowing, and breathing at the same time, but my little fighter drank that bottle down in 5 minutes flat. We were closer to coming home.

Shortly after that, we had the carseat test( the baby is put in it's carseat for a few hours while on monitors to make sure they sats stay up), the CPR class, I was told to stay off dairy and with success, was able to breastfeed Carter, and the night we roomed in with Carter...AH!!!! That night was the scariest night ever! Carter was put on a monitor that was probably from the 70's and VERY touchy, so it went off CONSTANTLY. We had many exciting times in the NICU, weaning off the oxygen, getting off his medications, passing his hearing AND sight screening, graduating from one isollette to another then eventually to a big boy bed :), passing the car seat test, taking his first bottle...and ya...and pooping...but never did we think we'd see the day that our sweet baby could come home with us. I don't think I slept at all that night. I dreamt of the moment I could take him home with me and now...I was completely dreading it!! The next day was his Bella Baby photoshoot and then the day after...I got the call!! Carter was ready to come home!!! It was August 4, 2008...and after 6 weeks and 5 days...we welcomed him to the world!!

It didn't end there, and I'll make this quick. We had weekly weight checks and monthly developmental clinics where he was either too slow or far ahead or just shy of reaching where he needed to be. He had physical therapy for 2 months because of increased muscle tone, (they suspected cerebral palsy...luckily that was not the case) where he progressed at the speed of light. He had to have shots for RSV monthly for 6 months and of everyone nagging "WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!"...But we made it, we made it through all that with Carter fighting his little butt off and living up to his name...The Monster. Carter dodged a lot of bullets and we're truly lucky to have gotten through this all with a I see it...perfect baby. I had my doubts, but not one day goes by that I don't thank the Lord for sending me this miracle. Although he is only 11 months old (can you believe it?!), he has taught me more than any person has in my life...he is an inspiration. Throughout all this, I've really renewed my faith in God. Obviously someone was looking out for me the day of my random check up, or when Carter came close to SO many things...Nec, etc...Someone was there...holding my hand through the whole thing. If you didn't believe in God, or a higher power, before, you will now...This is my miracle baby, whom I will be thankful for for the rest of my life....

Just a couple hours old

Carter Riley
1 month old...and no more oxygen!!

Look...No tubes!!
6 weeks old

His first week home.
Almost 2 months old and weighing in at
4 lbs 5 oz

2 months old
First time in the big boy tub.

3 months old
Eyes as big as ever!

4 months old
Getting chubby..finally

5 months old
Hamming it up.
He has more personality than anyone I know!

6 months old
Christmas Photoshoot
Done by my wonderful mother :)

7 months old
Little baby, big clothes.

8 months old
SHOCKED by what he's reading in the magazine!

9 months old
Prettiest eyes I've ever seen!

10 months old
And all over the place!

Now...just about 11 months old
18 lbs 28 in
He's crawling,
talking (mama, dada, baba, baby, ni ni which is night night, byebye),
pulling up,
he has 6 teeth,
wearing 12 month clothes!!!
He's come a long way...and he's perfect.

One last thing I have to add. There is one person that I could not have done this without. He held my hand through it all, made me laugh when I needed it, and treated me with the utmost kindness. Although at times I thought he didn't get it, he really pulled through. He works his butt off day and night to support our family so I can stay home and be with Carter, and I will forever
appreciate him for that. A wonderful husband and The love of my life...

My husband, Joe.

And I will leave you with this...

told you he was a monster baby :)


  1. Carter is such a handsome boy. Welcome to blogging! You should think about joining 20something bloggers ( too. We have a really great community :)

    By the way, this is Jamie. I'm the moderator of the BlogHer Chicago area group. Just wanted to stop by and say hi!

  2. As a mother to 2 - 27 weekers, your story was all too familiar. Our girls had a much longer road with the ventilators and oxygen, but only another NICU mom/dad truly knows how you feel and what you went through. Congratulations on your little miracle.

    We brought our miracles home on the day Carter was born! :)

    Best of luck to you!!