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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Earthside -Whitney Part V

 Earthside/Day 1

We took a few photos with the baby and the doctors worked to stitch me back together. I was surprised to see just how long the “putting back together” process took. I was eager to get back to my room, to place my son on my chest and feed him for the first time. After reading so much about the importance of skin to skin and delayed cord clamping and blah blah blah, I felt helpless as I laid there with a room full of strangers caring for my son and putting my body back together again. After what felt like forever, the surgery was completed without complications and I was moved to a different bed and wheeled to a recovery room. 


Back in the room, there were a few other things to do before I could hold my son, Whitney Adam Grossmann. Because he was born from a COVID+ mother, they gave him a quick bath in case he had been exposed to the virus on his way out of the womb in surgery. Finally, he was placed on my chest and I looked into the eyes of this perfect chunky little creature that was mine. It was all a blur at this point, I can't remember if he fed right away (I think he did). I was torn between trying to enjoy the moment of actually meeting him for the first time and the absence of his father. I was overwhelmed by the chain of events of the day which started with me walking into the hospital to see if my water had broken a mere 12 hours earlier. I soon realized that was just that day, that the emotional trauma of Adam’s diagnosis was just the night before where I was up most of the night alone in our bedroom, isolated from my husband while I took in the reality that I could be delivering alone. I had barely slept on Monday night with the grim news of his test and tonight, I hadn’t slept a wink as I went from labor to surgery to holding a newborn around 3am. 


The rest of the morning and into that first day, Whitney slept 90% of the time. I had to wake him up for feedings and was thankful for the help of the nurses when they came into the room. The nurses seemed to operate on a 2-3 hour schedule, stopping in on these intervals for vital checks or to administer medications. While it may seem frequent, alone post surgery and overwhelmed it felt like I had been abandoned on my own with a newborn and a 6-inch long incision across my stomach. Thanks to Covid, I was in a special part of the hospital which meant strict protocol had to be followed. Someone couldn't just stop in my room to check on me, they had to be fully donned in PPE (goggles, face shield, two masks, hair covering, scrubs) and then an extra paper gown that was put on before entering my room and left in the garbage can by the door. 


Going through this alone, I envisioned having a more permanent person in the room with me to help me out of bed, to hand me the baby, or to help with day-to-day needs as I recovered. It wasn’t until they kept asking me questions about bowel movements and pain levels, stating that I had just undergone major surgery, that I realized how major it was. Whitney was placed in a bassinet by my bed but no matter how I altered the bed, I could not reach him without sitting up and getting out of bed. The nurses tried to give me a few tips and tricks but the reality was I needed two extra hands. I had to be sitting up at the edge of the bed to grab him out of his bassinet which felt impossible alone after stomach surgery. I then had to arrange pillows in a certain way to support my back which was on absolute fire from the pregnancy and now holding him. It also helped to have another pillow under him to take some of that weight off my back and support this tiny little creature as he fed. I can so clearly remember the mental discussion in my head that went down every time I prepared myself to crunch up out of bed. I swore it was a 20-minute process at times, mentally preparing myself for the pain that would follow as I tried to get out of bed to reach my crying son. I eventually ended up tying an extra sheet to the end of the bed which I could use as an anchor to help pull myself up out of bed. Every time I did this, I couldn't help but think that this is why Adam needed to be there, that asking a first-time mom to recover from a c section and care for her newborn son at the same time was just too much at times.


I was thankful for that quiet first day which made the transition into motherhood a little easier as my body tried to heal. The nurse kept telling me that this wouldn’t last, that the next day would be entirely different as my sleepy little newborn recovered from his birth and would enter his second day of life, lungs and vocals blaring. She was absolutely right and Day 2 of Whitney was a lot different than Day 1. 


Day 2

Day 2 started with a nurse that was authoritative and observant in every way I didn't know I needed. She walked in and noticed my IV was still in, my bandage hadn't been removed, the garbage was overflowing, and so much more. I didn't realize what an afterthought I had been until she whirled around the room taking charge. She removed the IV which previously made breastfeeding difficult as I kept nailing him in the head with the plastic ports. She took off my bandage which allowed the wound to breathe a bit. She called down to the front desk and had someone sent over immediately to empty the garbage in my room and bathroom. She came with my breakfast that I had ordered 2 hours before (although the wait should have only been 45 minutes). She was sympathetic and caring, feeling awful that all of these tasks had not been completed, and to top it off, I was being delivered a breakfast that was ice cold. After she finished her tasks and headed out the door, I called Adam to tell him about the nurse on duty and how he could be at ease a bit as this nurse took charge. 


The day went on and I got used to this tiny little baby that was sleeping or eating. I felt like a guinea pig most of the day as my blood pressure was checked, O2 levels monitored, lungs x rayed, urine sampled, and blood was constantly being drawn. I know some of it is just basic post pardom monitoring, but I knew a lot of it was related to my COVID diagnosis and I couldn’t help but feel like biohazardous waste as everyone whirled around me in full PPE performing this test and that. One of the nurses caught herself describing something about “COVID moms” and she immediately apologized for using that term and acknowledged how much she hated it.


It wasn't her fault really, it was the way the system was set up. This virus had been plaguing the world for a year at this point and there was still so much we didn’t know never mind how overworked and burned out the hospital staff was. Most of my questions were answered with a timid “I don’t know” and so many precautions were put in place to help buffer some of these unknowns.


The rest of Day 2 went by in a blur as I facetimed Adam, fed the baby and recovered from surgery. Night 2 was when I really faced the reality of being in the hospital alone and how hard a newborn could be. I had noticed that shift change is when the nurses visits became rather sparse as one nurse left to fill out paperwork and finish her rounds, leaving a longer stretch of alone time before the next nurse on shift stopped in for meds or vitals. The evening nurse removed my catheter and handed me a crying Whitney before she left for the evening. She told me that it was a shift change and the new nurse would be in soon to help me up and out of bed first time without the catheter. A large chunk of time went by and I was still holding Whitney and was feeling the urge to use the bathroom and I was dozing off. After a long wait, I paged the nurses station to let them know I needed some help. I was also beyond exhausted, approaching night 3 with about 1 hour of sleep behind me. Adam was beyond frustrated at just how helpless we had become. He wasn’t there to help me and all he could do was sit on the sidelines and watch me struggle. When 45 minutes went by since I had paged the nurse and no one had come in he just about lost his mind. After arguing, he convinced me to hit the button again and for a second time I asked for some help as I was falling asleep holding my newborn in bed, trying not to pee myself and in pain. I had also been trapped in this room with two masks and the loudest air filter system and I was losing my mind quickly with this isolation. Adam really lost it and hung up the phone with me and called the hospital.


What he did next just provide how much I need this man in my life and just how much he gets me. He told the nurse that I had been sitting there holding his son for far too long and he was worried about me dropping the baby in my sleep. He firmly told the nurse that I had been sitting there needing to use the bathroom for over 45 minutes and that the girl lying in that bed was never going to ask for help. He asked her to check on me a little more often and to offer extra help to the woman who was too afraid to ask. 


When he called to tell me all of this, I was angry and ashamed before being so thankful for his take charge attitude. I was drowning in sleep deprivation and post surgery recovery and his assertiveness over my care took one thing off my plate. The night nurse came in shortly after, profusely apologizing for her absence as the messages were not being relayed to her. I mentioned the call from my husband and she was the gentle, caring and understanding nurse I needed at night before the take charge nurse took over in the morning. 


Night 2 proved to be the hardest night of my life so far. I started to develop some minor symptoms and a fever spiked, my nose started to run behind my double masks, and a cough and scratch in my throat took over. I couldn’t cough with the fresh incision and these minor symptoms were magnified with my recovery and constant mask wearing. I could not get out of bed to wash my hands and relied on hand sanitizer every time I needed to touch Whitney. My hands were soon raw and burning with a rash developing from so much sanitizer. My entire body was on fire and itching, a common aftermath of an epidural and hormones. I was sweating in this sealed up room and no overwhelmed. Without the catheter and with all the IV fluids stil coursing through my body, I was forced to get out of bed to use the bathroom constantly. On top of that, Whitney was not having any of it. I could not get him down and we spent the entire night awake. Every time I placed him in his bassinet, he screamed and screamed. The only place he was quiet was in my arms being held or while nursing. I was so sore from nursing this newborn all day and anytime I tried to hold him in my arms for more than a few minutes, I could feel myself falling asleep. I would doze off for a few minutes and awake with a jolt terrified I was about to drop the baby or that I already had. At about 3am after this back and forth fight between him and I, I facetimed Adam in the middle of a complete breakdown. Whitney was only happy in my arms but I couldn't be trusted to hold him and stay awake. Adam tried to keep me awake and sat at home alone terrified something was going to happen. He begged me to get the nurses back in and to ask for help. I hit the button and she helped me with a diaper change and morale.


Before this point, I was planning on staying in the hospital as long as I could, knowing that Adam was so sick at home and Whitney was probably safer in the hospital than home with two COVID + parents. The doctor on call, the doctor I had been seeing since the beginning of my pregnancy told me that Friday afternoon would be the earliest I could go home but it was likely Saturday and I accepted this. This acceptance changed fast as without a nursery to take the baby for a little bit and without a person in the room with me, there was nothing much anyone could do. Nurses couldn't sit in the room with me all night for obvious Covid and workload reasons and I was drowning. I finally asked the nurse for a pacifier to see if that would help and while it gave me a few minutes here and there, he was still a crying baby who hadn’t slept a wink. We were both overtired and I spent most of the night in tears, defeated by the situation and picturing how much easier everything would have been with Adam there. By the time the morning nurse walked in, she could see the defeat on my face and I explained to her that we had been up all night and I was struggling. I told her I was hoping to go home as soon as possible, that Friday needed to be the option because i couldn't do it alone anymore, I just needed help. 


Day 3 - Going Home

The nurses agreed that going home was the best option at this point and thankfully Whitney and I were healthy enough where this was an option. They had swabbed him in the middle of the night and we finally confirmed he was COVID negative. The pediatrician checked him over and told me that Whitney was the healthiest baby they had seen from a COVID+ mom. This news ended up becoming my mantra as I struggled through the rest of the day by myself. As hard as this was (and boy this was hard) I kept reminding myself that any parent with a sick child would take all this hardship and this virus if it meant they walked out with a healthy kid at the end of the day. I was struggling, I was sick and tired and emotionally and physically spent but I was going to go home with a healthy kid. 


Everything was working out for a Friday afternoon discharge and Adam and I spent the day trying to arrange the logistics. My car was in Madison, Adam was in Old Saybrook, and he would need my car dropped off or a ride to his car inorder to pick us up. We immediately felt the heaviness of our diagnosis as we struggled to find anyone willing to drive my car (which had been properly disinfected) or give Adam a lift to mine. At the same time, friends were sending food to the hospital for me (aamIng after the crap cold hospital food) and it was getting lost in translation. I ended up making four phone calls to track down food which was never delivered and frustrated nurses expressed how difficult it was for them to spend time away from their patients to track down food. I was in tears as something as simple as eating was made so impossible alone in a room and in light of covid. My in room phone was also ringing constantly as the staff at Yale tried to go over information and Whitney’s birth certificate via phone as I wasn’t allowed to sign or touch any paperwork that would be handled by the staff. I was so overwhelmed by how hard everything had become, simple paperwork, a meal delivery, a pickup from the hospital. 


We finally found the food, finished the paperwork over the phone and found someone willing to drop my car off to Adam. I counted down the hours until 4 o'clock as a fussy baby and sleep deprivation brought me to tears. The minutes felt like hours and I could feel any sane version of myself slipping away. I was getting to a point where I felt like I was going to become a danger to him or myself. I was in so much pain, so sleep deprived and we were both in tears. A nurse walked in around 3:00pm to me in a complete mental breakdown sobbing in tears. She patted my shoulder and offered her encouraging words, reassuring me that things would be easier.


After she left I attempted to pack up the room as best as I could with the crying baby and fresh incisipn. I piled my things on the bed and waited for Adam to pull up in front of the hospital. It was insanely emotional as Adam told me he was 5 minutes away and I envisioned the peace that would follow once I saw Adam again, once he saw our son, and once we were home together. It had been a week from hell and it was all coming to some kind of end at 4 pm.


Finally it was discharge time and a nurse I had never met showed up with a pissy attitude that still makes me cringe. She saw my belongings on the bed and with the snotty attitude asked how we were going to get everything down to the lobby. I explained to her that my husband would have happily helped me bring my bags downstairs but he wasn't allowed in. She eventually asked another nurse for help and grabbed a cart to wheel my things down to the lobby. I sat in the wheelchair and they handed me my son and I left my room for the first time (trip to the OR excluded). I was sobbing tears of relief as I saw other people in the halls, as we made our way to the lobby where Adam was waiting outside. I can't put into words how emotional that 5-minute journey through the hospital was but I was so overwhelmed with so many emotions.


I remember the moment the exterior doors opened and I saw Adam in the parking lot looking at me holding our son. We both fumbled and cried, looking to the nurses for help loading our son into the car seat. Adam had never even seen our tiny newborn before and was so nervous and overwhelmed by the whole process. I was in pain, sitting in my wheelchair and the nurses deemed reluctant to help us (again we felt like Covid turned us into toxic hazardous waste). Finally the nurse stepped in to load him into our car seat and took off inside before I had even made my way to the back seat. I sobbed in pain as I tried to lift my legs high enough to get inside the back seat of the car. I needed an extra set of hands or maybe a stool and had a hard time getting in the car as we felt abandoned in front of Yale New Haven hospital. I finally got in the car and Adam pulled out of the parking lot as I screamed in pain over every pothole and crack in the city streets that aggravated my swollen broken body.


Home

It was a painful ridw until we got on the highway and made our way home. Finally at home, we had to navigate how to get me in the baby inside without the dogs jumping all over either of us without any help. In a non Covid positive world we could have simply asked family to hold back the dogs. Instead Adam had to run in and let the dogs out while I stayed in my car seat trying to keep the dogs down. We somehow managed to get us all inside in one piece and Marshall especially was afraid of me as I hobbled inside still wearing my double masks which I would have to wear until our 10-day quarantine was up.


Inside the house, I couldn't even make it to the toilet in time and poor Adam found himself taking care of a newborn he had just met and his very broken wife. As the rest of the day unfolded, we sat there in weary bliss to finally be together again and holding our healthy son. We had to wear double masks for the next few days but it was a small price to pay after all we had been through. C-section recovery is not easy and is especially hard in the hospital by yourself, sometimes it felt impossible with a newborn. The silver lining is that the transition home was easier than expected as suddenly there was an extra set of hands to help me and the baby.


Going home a day early was exactly what we needed and the next few days went by without fanfare. There were your normal newborn struggles but after the week we had been through, it all felt manageable. Things have been easy and hard and as I finish typing up this story a 5-week-old baby Whitney is asleep on my chest. His birth story is one I could never have imagined and it was one of my nightmares come true. What kept me sane was knowing I was on track to leave with a healthy newborn at the end of it and for that, I'm forever thankful. This virus took a lot from so many. So far we've made it out mostly healthy but we certainly felt the heaviness centered around going through some of our biggest milestones in a pandemic.


In a way, it all makes me feel a little closer to our son. All of our appointments, his labor and delivery, it was just him and I trying to get through. We're on the other side of it now and I have to admit, it took a good few weeks to tell the story without bursting into tears. I felt traumatized and I'll be the first to admit that talking to a therapist would be insanely helpful and I plan to reach out to one next week to help process all we've been through.


Whitney, the world threw me for a loop when he brought you into it. Our story is a crazy one and I can't wait to read you these sad and sweet words one day.




Monday, March 29, 2021

Hospital & Induction - Whitney Pt IV

Induction 

At this point in the process, completely confirmed I was going to do it all alone, I was inconsolable sitting there sobbing in a hospital bed. The nurses sat in the somber atmosphere of my room as I started to really think clearly. Adam wasn’t coming, that ship had sailed and I needed to accept it. Now I had to start worrying about the baby and the sheer panic of how this would affect his birth and his health. 


I never made a “birth plan” but my hopes were to have a vaginal birth without the assistance of induction and definitely with the epidural. I let the nurses know right off the bat that an epidural was in my future and they said while I could have it at any time, it’s best to wait a bit for labor to start. 


They hooked me up to two monitoring systems - heart rate for the baby and a second to gauge the intervals of contractions. You can see the intervals on the screen and the “waves” are also printed on paper. At this point, they also placed the IV knowing I would need a bag of fluids prior to any epidural. The baby seemed fine with a normal healthy heart rate but my contractions were small and varied. Because my water had been broken for about 12 hours (slow leak from the night before) there is an infection risk to the baby and the best next step for the health of our son was to start induction. The doctors explained they were going to use two methods of induction: 1) a foley bulb which would work to dilate my cervix (I was at 1cm +1 station) and 2) pitocin which would start stronger contractions. They started to place the foley bulb which was uncomfortable but couldn't really be described as painful. I remember hearing what sounded like buckets of water being thrown on my floor and the nurses explained there was a lot of amniotic fluid being released which was making it hard to place the bulb. Finally, enough of the fluid had drained and they were able to place and inflate the bulb which started to put pressure on my cervix. 


Next, they started the IV with pitocin and left me for a bit while labor got started. Under a “Non Covid'' delivery, a partner would be there to help you when you needed to get out of bed or go to the bathroom. For me to get to the bathroom, I had to unplug two monitors, unplug my IV, and take this mass of cords in one hand and my IV stand in the other, wheeling it over to the bathroom - all while a bulb and tube hung from you know where. It was a process and I couldnt help but feel helpless on my own as something as simple as going to the bathroom was an ultimate process.  


I tried to distract myself with my phone, facetime Adam or sending updates to friends and family who had heard the news that I was in the hospital. I was waiting on COVID test results, waiting on contractions, alone in the room watching the monitor. At one point things started beeping at me and I nervously paged the nurse to shut off the horrendous offending noise. I was already drowned out by the hum of the large filter unit in the corner of my room and the beeping was enough to drive you mad. When no one “heard the beeping” until I paged, I started to wonder if anyone was even watching the computers. With no one in the room with me, how did they know when the heart rate sank? Was there something I was supposed to be doing. When the nurse made her way in I sheepishly asked her if they were able to watch my monitors outside the room and she assured me that yes, the nurses and even the doctors had access to the monitors from a safe space outside my room. We stopped the beeping machines and I started to breathe through contractions. We didn’t have a timeline but the way things were progressing, the nurses said it would probably be some point tomorrow when I met this little baby boy. 

 Heart Rates

As the pitocin dripped and the foley bulb did it’s thing, I noticed a pattern on the monitors. With the increase of every contraction came the decrease in his heart rate. The nurses kept their poke faces and when I kept probing on this pattern, they mentioned that the pitocin and the foley bulb were stressing the baby out and they were going to stop the pitocin to give him a bit of a break. He seemed to respond better to the slower contractions and the nurses had me switching positions every few minutes. The thought was that the cord was likely wrapped around him somewhere (neck, wrist) and with every contraction, the compressed cord was cutting of vital blood and oxygen that he needed. I would go from flat on my back to my left side, my right side, and then in this chair position. It was an acrobatic fete moving this 39 week pregnant body around while hooked up to IVs and monitors. The nurses helped me and commented on my dexterity as I positioned myself in all these wonky ways trying to get the baby some relief. The pitocin was started again and soon enough, I was reaching the point of unbearable contractions. The breaks in the middle were like nothing had happened but when a contraction was happening, it was a pain that was impossible to describe. Period cramp doesn't even touch this as at the height of each contraction I experienced an unbearable pain you just cant get away from. 


In all my research and child education classes, I knew epidurals had a sweet spot. Get them too soon and you slow down your labor. We were already trying to speed mine up due to the broken waters. Get them too late and you will suffer agonizing pain and more importantly, not be able to sit still long enough to place the large needle in your back. I talked to my nurses and we decided that when the foley bulb came out at 4cm, it would be a good time for the epidural. The nurses gave a little tug on the foley bulb, dislodging it from my cervix and confirming that I was at 4cm. I confirmed that I was going to get the epidural and as soon as possible would be the perfect time for that sweet relief. 


The pain came in unbearable waves that left me in tears and begging the nurses to check on the epidural team. Being in a COVID labor and delivery unit i’m sure slowed things down as dropping into my room quick between patients was not an option (whole garbing and ungarbing process). Two nurses were staying with me at this point, watching the heart rate monitor to see if the little guy was handling the strong contractions. The pitocin was stopped again but my body continued with powerful contractions that absolutely rocked me. They offered me a short term pain remedy but after explaining it would affect the baby, I decided to wait for the good stuff. Laying down in the bed was absolutely unbearable and I could not go through labor in that position. I mostly stood at the edge of the bed until the nurses mentioned that some women found it helpful to crouch down with each contraction. At the next contraction, I did just that and soon found myself virtually on the floor gripping the base of the bed waiting for the contraction to end. The doctor was pretty sure he was “sunny side up” and we were spine to spine which meant back labor was underway and was even more painful than normal. The nurses offered words of support and offered to rub by back but I was emotionally distraught and physically wrecked by the contractions and Adam’s absence. After what felt like a lifetime (but was probably 45 minutes to an hour) the nurse checked out in the hallway and saw the anesthesiologist in the hallway. Relief was in sight and I've never been so happy to see someone in scrubs. The anesthesiologist saw me crouched down on the ground gripping the bed and calmly but very sternly read me my miranda rights as far as epidurals go.


It was a large needle being placed in my back that would require me to be absolutely still and follow each instruction carefully. I would have balanced on my big toe if that was what was required and I immediately followed orders. When I played out this scene in my head the months before, I pictured Adam there to help hold me while the needle was placed. Instead, I asked the labor and delivery nurse, all 90 pounds of her, to brace with me in front of the bed to help me remain still during the next few contractions while the needle was being placed. To say I had a death grip on this poor girl was an understatement and I grabbed onto her like my life depended on it as the doctor worked on placing the needle. I felt the prick and the pressure but any discomfort was welcomed if it meant I would soon be on the other side of pain and getting comfortable in sweet relief. Yale is a teaching hospital and I had friends mention their apprehension on having someone who was a resident or student place the epidural. I was in so much pain at that point that I would have let the janitor place that needle if there was a slight chance in hell I would be out of pain. 


The needle was placed and both the nurse and the anesthesiologist were impressed with my statue-like performance. In about 15 minutes, the pain was gone and the nurses continued to watch the heart rate and contractions on the screen. I could no longer feel the pain or the contractions and thankfully, still had mobility in my legs. The nurse had me constantly changing positions just like before, left side, right side, all fours, chair position - all in effort to get some of the pressure off the cord and to help out the little babe whose heart rate was still sinking with each contraction. 


8 Doctors and Surgery 

The next scene I remember so clearly - I was on the all fours position leaning over the bed in attempts to get some pressure off the cord. I couldn't see the monitor or the nurses faces, just the back of the room as I leaned over the bed waiting for labor to be over. All of the sudden, things beeped a little louder and about 6-8 people were in my room, including one of the Doctors from my OB GYN (Dr. Baumbusch), a guy I had never seen before, and several others. I could tell this was some kind of emergency and I immediately started to panic by the onslaught of medical staff in my room. Dr. Baumbusch explained that the cord was wrapped somewhere and his heart rate had dipped lower than they liked- they were close to wheeling me in for an emergency c section. Thankfully things had stabilized shortly after their arrival in my room, but she explained that if this happened again, they would be performing an emergency c section to get the baby out. It wouldn’t be a RUSH RUSH emergency but would be urgent enough to stop labor progressing and take him out. 


We went back to our rotation of positions and it wasn't much longer before the doctors entered my room again. His heart rate was approaching that danger zone and it was time for a c section. The anesthesiologist was called back to the room and I was prepped for a c-section. At this point, I was too defeated to even care that things were ending like this. I was hoping for a vaginal birth with the support of my husband, to labor as long as I could at home before getting to the hospital and continuing labor without induction and with an epidural. Instead, I was there by myself after a traumatic COVID diagnosis for both of us, afraid for my health, my husband’s health, and our baby’s health. I had been dropped off at the hospital alone, induced, loaded up on pitocin with a foley bulb placed and now I was being prepped for major surgery. It’s most women’s fear… going through painful stages of labor just to end up with a c-section. 


I agreed, threw my hands in the air, and i was read my second set of what I referred to as my miranda rights, this time all the dangers and perils of a c section. I was read some things about complications, risks of surgery, possibly having to remove my uterus, bleeding and so forth before I signed some form, and was transferred to a different bed that would make my travels through the halls and into a special COVID operating room a bit easier. They asked if I wanted to let my husband know before they wheeled me away and I initially said no, not wanting to worry him. At this point, I hadn't spoken to him much, a quick phone call before the epidural was set letting him know I was in a lot of pain and would call him when the epidural was placed and I was resting. They looked at me a little skeptical, urging me to fill him in on the situation before I went under the knife. I called him at about 2am to let him know and a sleepy half conscious Adam woke up to the news that the baby’s health was suffering and I was going in for surgery. The quick call ended and I was wheeled down the hall to the OR. 


The nurses warned me that the OR would feel sterile, with bright lights and a lot of people wearing a lot of protective gear. She told me it would be okay to shut my eyes and that’s exactly what I did as they closed the doors to the operating room and prepped me for surgery. It’s all sort of a blur at this point but I can remember the original anesthesiologist near my head, offering comforting words and taking photos for me. I was prepped for surgery and can half remember answering questions “yes I can feel that, no I can’t feel that”. Next, the curtain was pulled up and my eyes were clamped shut as the team worked to get the baby out. Dr. Baumbusch was performing the surgery along with a gentleman I can assume was a resident. I could hear her instructing him on certain things and also remember a conversation about their dogs. It was comforting to hear them so relaxed as they worked which took some of the stress off my mind as they worked to get him out. It wasn’t long before they had him out and I heard the first cry of my son. I burst into tears, so thankful to hear him making noise as they worked to get him weighed, measured, and cleaned up to bring him to my shoulders for a photo. They declared he was a chunky baby, at 8 lbs and 5 oz and that the cord was in fact wrapped around his neck. He had a cone head and a large indent where he was trying to get through my pelvis and was stuck. The doctor confirmed he would have had a hard time getting out in this position and we were glad to have performed the C section when they did. She also tried to comfort me stating that future deliveries would not be affected by this experience and there was no reason a future birth could not be completed vaginally. 


Friday, March 26, 2021

COVID Positive - Whitney Pt. III

It was Sunday the 21, exactly one week before my due date. Adam had worked a 14-hour shift the day before and after a restless night of sleep, he woke up with a headache, common after a long day of physical work in the cold. After a slow morning, we cleaned up and headed out the door for a trip to Norwalk, a last socially distanced visit with his family and friends before the baby showed up. Because we were a week from his due date and just to be safe, we packed our overnight bags and car seat into the car along with the dogs and headed to Norwalk. We stopped at a favorite park in the city so the dogs could run around and stretch their legs after the ride. It was a sunny winter day and we walked hand in hand, hoping Baby Grossmann would show up already while simultaneously enjoying what could be our last weekend as a family of 2. We met Adams' sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and mother outside at the ice cream shop before heading back to Old Saybrook (all wearing masks and distancing).

During the car ride home, Adam started to feel sick and it all seemed to happen fast. His throat was burning and he felt overall fatigued and just generally unwell. We started to panic, knowing our son was due any day and seriously concerned that Adam’s health was not taking a turn for the worst. Of course, we were worried about covet but also concerned about strep and the flu. I immediately got on my phone to see if I could find a testing center open to see if this onset of symptoms was in fact COVID-19. Because it was already 6pm on a Sunday night, our only option was to wait for a test the next day. I was so aggravated that an actual year into this virus, we couldn't get to a testing center the second we noticed symptoms. Adam called the emergency line for his doctor and I called the emergency line for my OB, letting them know the situation we were in. At this point, we started to quarantine away from each other, sleeping in separate bedrooms and using separate bathrooms. We knew the damage was likely already done as we had spent the day together, 2 hours in the car even but still knew distancing was the only responsible thing to do.

Adam's doctor scheduled a PCR test for him the next morning and we booked a rapid test at the CVS in Guilford for 6pm later that same day. The PCR test had a turnaround time of 1-3 days while the rapid test has results within the hour. We anxiously awaited for that 6pm test and Adam started to feel worst and worst. He was locked in our guest room where I would leave food and water outside his door. I spent most of the evening and that Sunday night breaking down into panicked hard to breathe sobbing sessions. I was terrified of what a positive COVID-19 diagnosis would mean. It would mean that my biggest fear and the one thing I was worried most about during this entire pandemic over the last year had come true - birth by myself.


My doctors confirmed that if Adam tested positive, he would need 10 days of quarantine and 72 hours without symptoms before being allowed to come to the hospital. I was due in 7. At this point, I was almost manic, distraught over the fact that I would potentially have to go to the hospital and have our child by myself. Every vision I had of him by my side, helping me through the pain, of seeing our son for the first time with me was evaporating. He had missed the entire pregnancy, not allowed to attend a single appointment or ultrasound and being able to attend the birth was the only thing that was keeping us sane through this pandemic pregnancy.

Monday morning came and Adam went to his morning test and then finally, his rapid test. The phone call that happened next is one I don’t think I will ever shake from my memory. The test was at 530 and by 6 o clock, I couldn't take the wait. I called Adam and heard him sobbing at the other end of the line as he said “I'm Positive”. He sobbed and I sobbed and he whispered over and over into the phone “I'm so sorry, I’m so sorry”. I tried my best to assure him we would be okay and getting him home safe was our only goal at the moment.

Once home, there was definitely a somber mood around the house, we went to bed in different rooms, heartbroken about the test results, nervous about my results as I was getting tested the following day, and hoping for the first time that the baby would come after his due date.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I noticed I was leaking some sort of fluid, too noticeable and a large enough amount that I knew it wasn’t vaginal discharge, and the way I could feel it, I was quite confident it wasn’t urine. I called the doctors the next day and told them about the fluid. Normally, you would just go to the office of your OBGYN where they would swab you to see if the fluid was amniotic or discharge/urine. Because I was living with someone who had tested positive, this was not an option and instead, I was told to head to Yale-New Haven Hospital where they would perform the swab in the covid unit of the hospital. I asked if I could drive myself as I knew I could potentially be COVID+ as well and Adam and I were still quarantining meaning he was out of the picture too. I could tell a lot of people did not feel comfortable being around someone COVID positive but thankfully, two friends offered to drive me. Mary Ellen, a friend from the equestrian angle of my life had one vaccine and without a moment's hesitation agreed to drive me to Yale. I grabbed my overnight bag out of her car, leaving the other bags behind (pillows, blankets, his bag, nurse thank you gifts, Adam’s bag).

We took the necessary precautions, me in the backseat with the window cracked to create some distance and add in airflow. We both wore double masks and I put on gloves before getting in the car. 30 minutes later, we were pulling into the hospital where I had to wait for someone in full PPE (double mask, goggles, face shield, hair cover, scrubs, gown cover). As I waited in the car, I saw a happy couple walk out of the doors with their brand new baby in his car seat, loading up this precious cargo and heading home. This image nearly broke me as I erupted back into sobs, knowing that this happy image I had envisioned for so long wasn’t going to be in the cards for me. COVID took a lot away from me this year, it forced me to replan my wedding, scrap a honeymoon, quit my job and spend a lot of time home alone. It also meant that Adam was unable to come to a single appointment. He wasn’t there at 8 weeks when we confirmed the pregnancy. He wasn’t there at 20 weeks when we did the full anatomy scan and saw our little boy kicking and punching on the monitor for the first time. This left me in tears at various points over the 9 months but the saving grace was knowing that the hospital was allowing a support person and while Adam missed the pregnancy as far as appointments go, he would be there for the birth. It was the one thing that kept me sane through the most insane year - that Adam would be there to hold my hand through the contractions and I would see the tears in his eyes as the doctors handed over our son to meet his father for the very first time.

I held onto some scrap of hope as I sat in the car waiting for the nurse. I hoped I would be there for a quick swab, a conclusion that it was just urine or discharge and I would be back home by dinner. I held so dearly onto the notion that the first babies are usually late and that there was still a chance he would arrive after my due date and after the 10-day quarantine which would allow Adam to be with me.
 

Once at the hospital, Mary Ellen wanted to wait but I insisted she head home and I would let her know when I needed a ride back home. Little did I know, this was going to be the last time I saw the outside world until Friday evening. My fully geared nurse arrived and I followed her, hauling my overnight bag "just in case" where she eventually led me to a large room in the new to 2020 COVID labor and delivery area of the hospital. 

The room was impressively large with a hospital bed next to the computer machines, a rocking chair, an incubator/crib area, a cot, and a large air filter system. Every time I looked over at the cot I burst into tears all over again, knowing that's where Adam would sleep, and that he should be here, in disbelief he was likely going to be missing the birth of our son. Once in the room, I changed into a gown and hopped on the bed, waiting for someone to perform the swab to see if my water had in fact broken. I met a few nurses and doctors, all donned in extensive PPE which made the process all even more dehumanizing and so hard to tell anyone apart.  Dr. Baumbusch (one of the OBs I really liked and the one I had spoken to on the phone the night before) was on staff that day at the hospital but was having a busy day in the OR. 

Eventually, a resident came and performed the swab and just a few minutes before the microscope confirmed it was amniotic fluid, I felt the GUSH of water while alone in the hospital bed and knew that there was no mistaking this. I paged the nurses and at the moment, I realized we were NOT making it to the 10-day mark of Adam’s quarantine. I could unpack my bag because I was not leaving this hospital without a baby

The next important step was to swab me for COVID which was much more uncomfortable than I imagined as it felt like she was tickling my brain (each nostril was swabbed). The results were sent off to the in-house lab and she told me the results were very accurate and we should know in about 2 hours. The nurses and doctors kept asking me if I had a backup plan because Adam couldn’t be there as a COVID+ support person. Several nurses asked if there was anyone else I would like to be there. If you need to know one thing about me, it’s that I am not a super touchy feeling kind of person. Hugging makes me uncomfortable and I continually turn down the free massage as your nails dry at the salon because I hate the idea of some stranger touching me. My initial instinct was to have my sister be there with me but she had been going through some severe COVID paranoia and with underlying kidney disease, it didn't seem fair to ask. Two of my good girlfriends (both moms) also offered to be there and did not want me going through it alone. 

I told the doctors and my friends that once we received my COVID test results I would make a decision. As I sat there in this negative pressure room watching everything dressed like we were in an anthrax exposure zone, it just didn't seem fair to make a decision without the results. The doctor agreed but to do her due diligence, reminded me that a negative result could be false, meaning that my exposure may have been too recent to be picked up by a test. It was at this point that I realized I was going to do this alone, that it wasn’t fair to expose my friends with babies of their own to a virus they had evaded until now. I sat there in my tears processing how the rest of my stay was going to unfold when I finally got the results of my test back. I was 39 weeks pregnant in labor at Yale-New Haven Hospital and I had contracted COVID-19.  I was going to go through labor, delivery, and recovery with my newborn son alone. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Pregnancy - Whitney Pt. II

There are two types of mothers in this world. Some women love being pregnant (love the way they feel/look/are perceived). Then there are the people who hate being pregnant (hate the way they look/feel/are perceived). If we can look at pregnancy in this "black and white" sort of way then I am in the second category - all the way. 

As my third trimester went by, I figured there had to be a lot of women in this second group. I thought like mze, a majority of women struggled with many of the parts of pregnancy. I thought this until I read a poll somewhere on Instagram where 70% of the people (who answered) loved being pregnant. 

Wait, what? 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Beginning - Whitney Pt. I

The Beginning 

Whitney Pt I


I’ve kept a log of my thoughts and theories as I went through 40 weeks of pregnancy. It wasn’t anything I ever planned to share. It was just a way to document this experience I was going through, to preserve it on “pen and paper” I suppose. I always enjoyed hearing other people’s birth stories and found it incredibly helpful to read through or listen to other people’s experiences and stories. It was helpful to hear stories, where everything went according to plan or just about everything, went wrong.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Visiting Luray Caverns - Virginia

Spending $30 a person to go tour a cavern isn't typically on my to-do list when traveling somewhere new. I like geologic formations as much as the next person I suppose, but generally prefer to skip touristry attractions for time outside. 

We were in Virginia for a few days and had a bit of time to kill after our hike to Kennedy Peak. Adam was very excited about the idea of spelunking and checking out a cavern and after a quick google search, the caverns did seem pretty interesting. They are the largest caverns in eastern America and it's more than just a quick look at some rocks, a 1.25-mile path takes you into and through the caverns. Your ticket also comes with admission to two smaller museums on the property. The first is "Toy Town Junction" featuring a walk through history via toys of different eras, and access to the "Car & Carriage Caravan Museum" a blast from the automotive past for any car junky. We spent about an hour and a half exploring all three attractions and both agreed the caverns were even more impressive than we expected and worth the stop. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Kennedy Peak - George Washington and Jefferson National Forest (Virginia)


Shenandoah National Park is a major attraction in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There's something about the term "National Park" that puts the title on people's bucket list.  Yes. National Parks are (usually) worth all the hype and Shenandoah doesn't fall short with its epic Skyline Drive and famous stretch of the Appalachian Trail. What you may not have known is just next door to this bucket list-worthy National Park is a just as impressive National Forest. 

A lot of people seem confused about the difference between some of our protected areas and for good reasons, there are a lot of terms we throw around. We have National Parks, National Forests, National Refuges, and National Monuments to name a few. They are all protected for various reasons but are basically protected in different ways with various levels of restrictions. For today's post, let's talk about the difference between National Parks and National Forests.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Visiting Shenandoah National Park in a Day (in winter, with dogs!)


For me, visiting a National Park in the off-season is the best season. Our National Parks are gems to be shared by all but visiting these parks in the summer and fall months means you will be in the company of others, many others. Trails will be packed, parking lots full, and it can be a lot harder to enjoy the quiet of the outdoors when you are in a crowd. 

Winter is a great time to visit our National Parks as with just a few "restrictions", you will be able to see a national treasure without the crowds. Shenandoah National Park is a great place in the winter as clearer skies offer sweeping views across the valley. No traffic, parking is a non-issue, and the trails are perfectly quiet. While I know this park is breathtaking in the fall, we figured it was beautiful enough to visit in the winter too - just in a different way. Of course, we had our dogs with us, and as it turns out that Shenandoah National Park is one of the most dog-friendly National Parks in the U.S. (only 10 trails are off-limits). 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Hiking Hartman Park - Lyme, CT

Living on the preserve means I venture to other hiking areas a little less. It's far too easy to walk out the door and down the road than loading up the dogs in the car and driving to a trailhead. But, as much as I appreciate this large swatch of wilderness that stretches past our home, a change of scenery is always good. It was a sunny Sunday in January, temperatures topping in the high 30's and low 40's. A bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky and a light breeze at best. January in New England can go either way and this kind of weather on a winter Sunday with limited daylight hours means you pack up the car and head somewhere worthy. 

I had been to Hartman Park a dozen times and joked with Adam I had a bit of "PTSD" from a December visit years ago. While hiking in the park, Olive and her hiking buddy (Thule the golden retriever) took off after a deer and that was the last we saw of them for about five hours. Hartman Park is sort of in the woods in the middle of nowhere and after spending hours following the trail and calling their name, asking any hikers if they had seen this dynamic duo (always no), I was beyond hysterics. The sun was starting to set and snow was falling and I left the park to go grab some bacon for a bacon burn. My parents left their hours to head to the trailhead to search the roads while we ran to the store and as they pulled up to the trailhead, our two lost dogs were there waiting for a ride home. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Hiking East River Preserve - Guilford, CT




East River Preserve is kind of the space that has everything.  Wide-open fields, lots of double-track through the woods, trails following the beautiful East River, wide gravel trails along the powerlines, quiet singletrack through the woods, and more. When I lived in Guilford, it was a spot I went almost weekly and even after moving away, it's still a preserve I keep coming back to.  It can be busy during the weekends but it isn't mobbed by any means.  There are various trailheads throughout town and it i's larger than you think.  A hot sunny morning or a grey winter's day, East River Preserve is the perfect place for a hike during any season.