Well…other than a couple extra days in the hospital my twin birth went off without a hitch. (LOL!) Before I knew it we were bringing these beautiful new additions to our family home with us. I was completely clueless. First of all, I thought as soon as I had the babies I would be skinny again. After all the only area where I really gained weight was my tummy. Ha!! I had enough fluid on me to float a boat. I was huge and even more uncomfortable than when I had been pregnant because now the weight was not isolated to my stomach. My legs and feet were so filled with fluid you could press these gross little indentions into them. My 14 year old son seemed to find this amusing. Maybe by the time he grows up men will be having babies :-)
When we got home I had a few hurdles to overcome. I was tired all the time, hungry all the time and having a bit of difficulty with nursing. The girls seemed to want to nurse all the time. At one point my mother-in-law suggested I might try pumping just to see if they were getting any milk. I was quite certain they were getting plenty of milk. After all, I was a new mommy who had never had a baby before (as opposed to a woman with two kids and years of experience both as a mother and a grandmother) of course I knew what I was talking about :-) And besides, no one at the hospital had really indicated that I wouldn't be able to produce milk. I had talked to a lactation specialist. They checked the latch. Surely, everything was great. Still, I gave pumping a shot. (to prove my mother-in-law was wrong) Only problem was…she was right. When I pumped I found that I was just producing a small amount of milk. No wonder the girls always wanted to eat and were fussy. They were hungry! It was months later before I really came to appreciate just how much of a blessing it was that my mother-in-law gently suggested that I might not be producing enough. I read a blog by a woman whose three day old baby died of dehydration. It gives me chills even now. She delivered in a hospital, nursed continuously and tried to do everything right. The only problem was that the hospital was so pro breast-feeding that they checked the latch but didn’t even entertain the possibility she might not have enough milk. I can’t even imagine.
I had already been supplementing with formula but at this point I definitely increased it. Funny thing, I hadn’t even planned to buy any formula after we left the hospital until my husband insisted. I thought if there was no option of formula then I would have no choice but to breast feed. The more you feed the more milk you produce so it seemed like a winner to me. However that's not always the case. With blood loss and complications sometimes there simply isn't that much milk. Oh, I could write a blog post on this alone. (Maybe I will. If not for anyone else but me :-) Anyway, in addition to increasing the amount of formula I was giving I called the lactation specialist. She suggested I pump every three hours around the clock. I tried to do this but was exhausted and hated to not sleep when I had the opportunity. By the end of the first day I couldn’t breath when I laid down.
It was the strangest feeling - like you were drowning but of course there was no water. Breathing was better when I sat up but still difficult. I could hear a crackling sound when I inhaled and I knew that something was terribly wrong. Nine years prior my mom had passed away. Before she passed fluid filled her chest cavity. She always spoke of “feeling like she was drowning.” Now, I knew what that felt like. The next day I went in to see my OBGYN. He listened to my chest and my complaints but said I was clear and it was all related to typical post-delivery problems. I left the office but wasn’t convinced. When I went home I felt as though I was getting worse instead of better. That night I had difficulty sleeping because I couldn’t breath while lying flat. I sat up in a chair and tried to do the best I could. I was exhausted. The next morning I called the nurse at the OBGYN clinic. She suggested maybe I was just tired but I insisted on a chest x-ray. Now I have to interject with just a little bit of background information. My husband was on leave from his deployment in the middle east so that he could be here for the birth of the girls. At this point he was due to board a plane and return the next morning. I was praying the impossible - that he would get to stay.
Late that afternoon the doctors office called to tell me the chest x-ray did show fluid in my lungs. The nurse said given the time of day it would be best to go to a walk-in clinic for follow-up that evening. My x-rays would be in the computer system. For some reason I felt the Lord’s leading to go to the clinic across town instead of the one closest to our house. We drove across town and when we walked in there was not a soul in the entire clinic. It was amazing. Went right in and were seen. After we were in the back a few more people came into the clinic. It was as though the entire area had been cleared just for us. (The other clinic had been covered up. However, I had determined in my heart that the Lord was leading us to go across town before I ever saw that they were busy.) They listened to my chest and decided I needed to go straight to the emergency room.
When we arrived at the ER, the staff from the clinic had already called ahead and talked to the attending physician. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. I walked up to the front check-in desk. The receptionist was on the phone with someone from the medical team. Are you here for congestive heart failure? She asked. “Yes??” I replied both uncertain (That was the first time I had heard that diagnosis.) and figuring it couldn’t help but speed the wait time along. (LOL!) Immediately they took my vitals. My blood pressure had really jumped (go figure) and walked me to a room.
It was then that God really started to move. First of all we were sharing a room, separated only by a curtain with an older couple. Before we left the couple gave us a $100. We had mentioned nothing of money or needing money. The really cool part? Earlier my husband had given away $100 to a veteran. You truly can't outgive God. The other neat thing was that this physician took me seriously. He put me on Lasix and placed the wheels in motion for me to get a room for the night. But what he did next was absolutely beyond the call of duty and an answer to my prayers. He called my husband's commanding officers, explained my condition and worked to request that my husband’s leave be extended. Keep in mind by this time it was late in the evening, probably 9 or 10 at night and my husband was scheduled board a plane the following morning. The leave was extended by 10 days and I was transferred to a room. By the next morning I was much lighter (if I remember correctly it was around 20 pounds.) and could breathe better.
The OBGYN came in to see me the following morning and said that I just had a little fluid in the bottom of my lungs from the swelling. Then he released me to go home later that day. I went home thankful that my husband’s leave had been extended. Maybe this was God’s answer to my prayer. But I still didn’t feel entirely back to normal. My breathing had improved but was shallow and labored. I just didn’t feel like…me. I lacked energy and knew something was still wrong. This prompted yet another visit to the minor emergency clinic which resulted in another visit to the ER.
This time our doctor even surpassed the previous one - if that was possible. Determined to find out what was wrong, he ordered a CT Scan, an ultrasound and blood work. Then people REALLY started to take me seriously. Oh, sweet vindication. I was not just a bloated, fussy, ex-pregnant, middle-aged, woman. I had postpartum cardiomyopathy and in the words of my cardiologist the following day my echo looked “terrible.” It really wasn’t all that bad. The ejection factor only got down to 35% thanks to the fact that I would not take you’re ok, or just stressed, or just tired for an answer. I was sick darn it and someone was going to listen to me. And they did…eventually. I spent several nights on the cardiac floor (not quite as cheerful as the maternity ward), had an angiogram (all was clear) and was eventually sent home with an ace-inhibitor and beta blocker to take. This time I was a pretty good patient except when I refused to take my lasix because I felt dehydrated. (Funny when the blood work came back turned out I was right :-) By the time I came home I truly was better.
When I had an echo at 12 weeks out I had and EF of “greater than 55%” which is a strong normal. Here’s the beauty of it all. God truly did answer my impossible prayer. After I was hospitalized a second time instead of extending my husbands leave for another 10 days, the Army decided to allow him to “complete the mission from the rear.” He was reassigned to a base in Texas for the remainder of the mission and could come home on the weekends. So, as far as I was concerned the postpartum cardiomyopathy was simply a blessing in disguise. As I write this I am healthy and whole, headed to the Yellow Ribbon Ceremony for my husband's brigade. All of the troops made it home safely. Most of the families who will be at the event have just been reunited this past month. I was blessed to have a beautiful family, two amazing little babies, three awesome teens and fantastic little pre-teen all this time and all I had to do to get it was hit a little rough patch and win the youngest newcomer to the cardiac floor award.
Lessons learned. We are not promised tomorrow. Trust in Jesus as your Savior today. Don't take life for granted. And if you’re ever admitted to the cardiac floor of a hospital hide food in your suitcase. (It’s terrible!)
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Btw if you haven't read My Twin Story Part 1 you can check it out here.
Have an awesome week!