November 2021 recap

I’ve been meaning to write this post since February and it’s now almost April so let’s do this shall we… otherwise I’m still going to be banging on about last year in 2023!

After being rehospitalised at the end of October I was back on oral medication to prevent contractions and sent home again on 3 November. This time I was not allowed to work at all. Luckily I was only actually planning on working until the 5th since I had annual leave I still needed to take, so I only got a sick note for a couple of days. I then spent a week at home mostly in bed but also sorting out a few things that needed to be sorted before the birth. I managed to post out both a Christmas card and my cousin’s birthday present to New Zealand… only for them to still not arrive until after Christmas, but that’s another story! I also got together the documents I needed to register the birth. (Jan didn’t sort his part in time though, which has resulted in a right palaver with her surname, but again that’s another story).

On 9 November I went for an ultrasound. Because of the operation, I was supposed to go for one once a week to make sure the placenta was still working and baby was growing properly. I was expecting it to be routine, and almost everything looked great but the doctor noticed my amniotic fluid was low. I then had an appointment with another doctor (the first was just doing the ultrasound), who did a swab to test for leaking amniotic fluid sent me for a CTG (see my last monthly recap if you don’t know what that is). The CTG looked good and the swab was negative. I had also asked the doctor about a vaccination for whooping cough, which I had been recommended to get while I was in hospital for the operation. He sent the nurse to check whether they had any and they did so I got that as well. Finally I saw yet another doctor – the second one having only been standing in for her while she was on her break! She was fairly clueless about what was going on but decided I should be admitted to the hospital in Zurich. But this time I was sent home to pack and make my own way there instead of being transported in an ambulance so at least I knew they weren’t too worried! The doctor said she would let Zurich know I was coming so home I went… having been at the hospital for about 3 hours by this time! At home I packed then hung around waiting for ages because Jan decided he needed to finish something before driving me to Zurich. We finally arrived at the hospital around 9 p.m. where I first had to go to the Labour and Delivery floor for another CTG, two ultrasounds (a normal and an internal one) and another swab for amniotic fluid. The doctor was convinced it was going to be positive but it was not. After some discussion about whether I should have a booster of the injection for the baby’s lung development they decided to leave it for the time being and admit me to the prenatal ward, where I had been the other two times I was in hospital. Jan had to leave at around 11 p.m. to take the car back and I was finally taken up to the ward around midnight. The next morning the doctor came round and told me the plan… basically we would just wait, constantly monitor the situation and try and get me as far as possible. As long as baby was still doing well I would be allowed to continue the pregnancy but I definitely wouldn’t be going home. That was pretty much as I had expected and I agreed that hospital was the best place for me to be, so that’s where I stayed for the rest of November (and part of December, but we’re not there yet). The surgeon who was in charge of my case and would be doing my C-section also came to see me and explained her theory of what was going on… basically she thought there was a tiny hole at the site of the internal incision and amniotic fluid was leaking from there into my abdomen. The two swabs for amniotic fluid had come back negative because my waters hadn’t broken as such, and so there was no risk of infection and it was deemed safe for me to stay pregnant.

The view from my hospital room on 26 November 2021

For the rest of November I did crossword puzzles, read, walked around the ward and chatted to my various room mates. One person had already been in there for about 4 weeks and stayed there with me until 1 December, when she finally bled one too many times and was taken to have her daughter. Another person was only there for 5 days before giving birth to her daughter, whose original due date was the exact dame as Zyma’s – 6 January! We’re still in touch via the occasional WhatsApp message. Various other women came and went, some just for one night, some for a little longer. And for a few days I was even completely on my own… in a room meant for 3! Every day I had a CTG in the morning and another in the evening, every three days I had an ultrasound, and at some point I ended up back on IV meds to prevent contractions. It was boring and sometimes lonely (Jan couldn’t visit that often since he had to work) but every single day that I was able to stay pregnant was an absolute gift. I knew the longer baby stayed in the better things would be for her, and since she would already have spina bifida to deal with I really didn’t want her to end up with any additional issues from being born prematurely. So I embraced the boredom and kept myself occupied as best I could. And so, eventually, November passed and I made it to the month in which. no matter what, I would be having a baby!
December 2021 recap coming soon. Well, I say soon, but clearly I can’t promise anything…

Two months of Zyma

I think if I write one of these every month it will be a bit much – especially since I don’t want this to turn into a “mummy blog”, so after the next one we’ll cut it down to quarterly. But this month we’re doing it. So.

It’s now been two months in my new reality. The one where I’m constantly covered in breast milk – either in its pure form or after it’s already spent some time in the baby. We have about a dozen muslins/burp cloths but she has a real talent for juuust missing them. I knew we would be washing a lot of baby clothes but never expected quite so many of my own to be in the mix! I also had to buy some tops after realising just how few items of clothing I own that are suitable for breastfeeding!

In all honesty month two has been exhausting – and we have a relatively easy baby! Since about 5 weeks all she has seemed to want to do is eat and since she gets most of her nourishment directly from me you can imagine what that means. Choosing the right time to shower is a fine balancing act! All the feeding is paying off though… Zyma has passed the 3.5 kg mark (that’s 7 lb 11 oz). She’s still a tiny little thing but she’s following her own curve perfectly.

First time breastfeeding in public! (Photo by my mother)

Apart from being a hungry hungry hippo… did you know babies can forget how to pooh? Or rather at first they just let it flow then they realise they actually need to do something but some babies don’t quite get it. As my midwife explained all women should engage their pelvic floor much before something that causes abdominal pressure – like sneezing or lifting something heavy (hands up who actually does though. Lol.) Babies apparently do this automatically, including while trying to push out pooh. Unfortunately that means they’re straining against a closed door, so to speak. The result is that poohing (or passing gas) involves a lot of straining coupled with straight up wailing. The internet says crying provides the pressure to get the pooh out and the babies aren’t actually in pain but she certainly sounds like she’s in pain and her poor little face goes bright red! She’s slowly starting to have more bowel movements without straining than with so I’m hoping we’re turning a corner. And of course in our case it’s good that she’s straining to pooh since that means she can feel that she has to go and the spina bifida hopefully hasn’t affected her bowel function. I just wish there was something I could do to help her!

Holding daddy’s hand

But despite the difficulties please don’t think I’m complaining. I’m still absolutely in love with my baby girl and can’t believe she’s mine. Sometimes when she’s sleeping on me I’ll literally just stare at her in awe of her cuteness. As for Zyma, she loves mama milk and baths, hates nappy changes, getting washed with a flannel (full baths are only once a week) and being put down so mammy can eat with two hands. She’s started following objects with her eyes and head, stares at her black and white contrast books and always behaves well for doctors – even when she has to have an ultrasound. Her hip dysplasia is already looking much better and the doctor is really pleased with her, but the harness is staying on for a while longer just to be certain. I can’t wait to see what the next month will bring! We’re hoping for some real smiles…

September 2021 recap

The midwife is coming earlier than usual today – at 11:30 a.m. – so after giving the baby her 7 o’clock feed and putting her back to bed I actually got up and had my shower. Her next feed will be a bottle from daddy together with her medication (caffeine citrate if you’re interested) so I’m using the fee time to catch up a bit on blog posts. My mam and brother are also here right now but currently still sleeping.

So, September 2021. I actually had the first two weeks of the month of work for my summer holiday (my colleagues were off in July and August so September was the only time available to me). We had initially had vague plans to potentially go to Germany, but once we received Zyma’s diagnosis and it fairly quickly became clear that we would be going for the operation Jan decided to save his time off for while I was in hospital, meaning I was off by myself. The weather was also fairly miserable so I didn’t end up doing much. However, I decided it would be a great time to get a head start on stitching Christmas cards since I had no idea when or how I would be able to do them after the operation. As it turned out that was a very good idea given I ended up in hospital for a second time in October and then again from 9 November until Zyma was born!

On 11 September I had my second COVID vaccination. Jan took me to the vaccination centre then dropped me off back at home and went to choir practice. Later that day I had a sore arm and by bedtime I had a headache and was aching all over. The next day Jan had choir practice again and I spent most of my time in bed, reading and sleeping. I still had achey muscles and a headache off and on (it would go away after a nap then come back) but thankfully no temperature – I kept monitoring it since that was the one side effect that could have been harmful for baby. By day 2 I was fine, which was good because I was back at work then.

The weekend before my operation we decided to go somewhere since it would be the last time for a while. On the Saturday (which was sunny for a change!) Jan slept for basically the entire day so we ended up going to La Neuveville on the Sunday when it was pouring down again. It’s still a cute town even in the rain though.

Then it was operation time. I went into hospital on Friday, 24 September. Patients having the foetal surgery for spina bifida always go into hospital on a Friday and have the operation on a Monday. Friday was a full day. I had a COVID test – the first of four! They took blood, did an ECG and I was given the first of two corticosteroid shots to help the baby’s lungs mature in case something happened and she ended up having to be born early. I also had an ultrasound and the doctor explained to us exactly how both the operation and the subsequent C-section would work. Later an anaesthetist came by and I also met with someone from the neonatal unit who went through exactly what to expect at every stage, from if the baby needed to be taken out during the operation at 25 weeks and 4 days right up to the day of the planned C-section at 37 weeks exactly. It was a lot of information! The coordinator in the university hospital side also came by to introduce herself – we had already met her counterpart on the children’s hospital side when we came for the initial information meeting.

Sunday was the second lung maturity shot and an IV drip with magnesium for neuroprotection of the foetus – again in case she had to be taken out early. Then on the Monday it was operation time. There were two operations that day and I was going first so I was taken down at about 6 a.m. Jan met me downstairs on the labour and delivery ward where I had a CTG (cardiotocography – monitoring of the foetal heart tones, baby’s movements and any contractions – I had a lot of those done by the end of my pregnancy!) and was prepared for the move to the operating theatre. Then I had to say goodbye to Jan and it was off for the surgery. Everything went about as well as it possibly could have – as I was apparently informed two hours later when I woke up. I have no memory of that conversation but luckily it was repeated to me again several times ;-). For the next two days I was closely monitored in a high dependency bed. I didn’t get much sleep down there but all the members of staff looking after me were amazing! Then I was taken back up to the normal prenatal ward where I was to stay until two weeks after the operation. Initially I was in a two-bed room which I shared with the other person who had had the same operation on the same day. By that evening the bladder catheter had been removed and I was encouraged to stand up, then later of course had to walk to the toilet (the nurses helped me get up and lie back down until I felt able to do it myself!). And then it was already October so more on my recovery next time.

This has taken a while to write so it’s about time I got back to my family. Hopefully I’ll get to my next few monthly recaps soon, then finally be able to write the yearly one for 2021!

August 2021 recap

Hello! Baby girl has gone to the hospital* with her daddy today so I’m taking advantage of the free time to sort out some things – including blog posts. (*Nothing to worry about. She has hip dysplasia – probably unrelated to her spina bifida – and today the doctors are doing an ultrasound and checking whether the harness they gave her is doing its job. If the harness works she won’t have to go into hospital for a few weeks for a different treatment so keep your fingers crossed!).

You’re probably wondering why I’m even bothering to recap August now considering how much time has passed. I like to have these posts to look back on so I wanted to write one before I forget everything entirely!

Last year, everything we did in the month of August ended up being slightly overshadowed by baby’s diagnosis. We found out she had spina bifida at my anatomy scan on 10 August – three days before my birthday. Happy birthday to me, right? We did still celebrate with a meal at a restaurant round the corner from us that we’ve been meaning to try since we moved to Basel. It was very nice. The staff were wonderful, replacing several things on the set menu so they were safe for pregnancy. I also got my first COVID vaccination the day after my birthday. At that time you needed a doctor’s certificate to get it during pregnancy and every single doctor I spoke to had highly recommended getting it done so I did. My only side effect that time was a sore arm that lasted for 3 days!

During the weeks following the diagnosis we had a lot of appointments. First I went back to the hospital in Basel for an amniocentesis (for those who don’t know they use a long needle to remove amniotic fluid from your uterus) to make sure there wasn’t any genetic reason for the spina bifida. As it turned out there was not. I then had another ultrasound to try and narrow down where exactly the defect was and we met with a neurologist from the children’s hospital in Basel. At the initial ultrasound where the spina bifida was discovered we had been informed about the option of open fetal surgery – in other words and operation to repair the defect before birth. It turns out Zurich is the European leader for this operation so we went there to find out more information. First I had to have another, extremely detailed, ultrasound then I had an MRI. The next day we went back to Zurich and met with the head surgeon from the spina bifida team, who by that time had seen the results of the ultrasound and MRI. He took a lot of time to explain everything to us and, as you obviously know by now, we decided to take the option of the fetal operation.

When we weren’t running round to appointments we managed to fit in a few day trips in August. Jan drove me to the vaccination centre for my COVID vaccination so since we had a car anyway we decided to go somewhere. We chose Altdorf, capital of the canton of Uri and best known as the place where, according to legend, William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head. I forgot to take my camera so I don’t have any photos.

Earlier in the month we went to Bremgarten, which is in Aargau. It’s a beautiful medieval town and for once the sun actually came out (a rarity in summer 2021!) so we had a really nice walk around the town and along the river. On the way home we stopped in Küssnacht where we played a round of mini golf – which I amazingly won – and then had dinner at a restaurant by the lake.

I also cross stitched some cards in August for September birthdays. My brother’s and my godson’s.

I read a grand total of four books in August – not really my best month. One of them was long though. You can see which ones they were here.

Apart from that I can’t actually remember what I did so I’ll leave this here since I still have some other things to sort out.

Hello baby!

I have a few minutes while waiting for the midwife so I thought I would quickly post.

Jan and I have a daughter! Born 16 December 2021 via planned c-section. Despite being hospitalised on 9th November with too little amniotic fluid I actually made it to 37 weeks. She was on oxygen after birth but that was removed fairly quickly and now she’s doing really well other than some problems maintaining her temperature. Yesterday she was transferred to the children’s hospital and today is the start of a stressful time for her with lots of tests to find out how the spina bifida will affect her. We are completely in love with her and couldn’t be happier.

For blogging purposes her name shall be Zyma (Ukrainian for winter).

Back in hospital…

A huge thank you to all those who have been checking in since my operation. I appreciate all your comment. Apologies if I’ve failed to respond to any! This will be a short post since once again I am typing on my phone. The operation went really well – couldn’t have been better. Both an MRI and several ultrasounds have shown leg movement right down to the feet so it looks like we’ve been able to preserve that function and baby should later be able to walk unaided or with minimal aid. My recovery also went well and I was taking brief walks around the ward on day 3. I got to go home after exactly 2 weeks with strict instructions on what I was not allowed to do (basically any housework whatsover!). I then managed a whole two weeks at home before I started noticing contractions. Luckily as it turned out they are “practice” ones (known as Braxton Hicks) so labour down seem to be imminent but because of the fresh incision the doctors wanted to be extra careful so I was admitted back to hospital for observation and IV anti-contraction meds. And that’s is where I am now. Later today I will hopefully find out how they want to proceed. For now I am celebrating the fact that baby and I have made it to exactly 5 weeks since the operation!

Not how I imagined making this announcement…

I don’t even really know how to start with this, so I guess I’ll just say it…

I’m pregnant. Currently almost 24 weeks, which is honestly amazing. I never thought I would make it this far. On Thursday, I’ll have officially reached viability. Babies born at this stage at least have a chance to survive… doctors will try to save them. Such a milestone!

Of course, nothing is ever simple for us. At 18 weeks and 5 days, three days before my birthday, I went for an anatomy scan where we found out that our baby has spina bifida. The one thing that was not even vaguely on my radar. I had been taking high dose folic acid since around 6 weeks and a normal dose for 5 years before that. So you can imagine it was a shock. I had to come back the next day for an amniocentesis, then we spent the next two weeks going to appointments and meeting with specialists. After an MRI followed by a very long discussion with a specialist in Zurich we finally decided on our next step – fetal, or in-utero surgery. So on 24th September I’ll be going into hospital and on the 27th I’ll undergo an operation so that they can repair the defect in our baby’s back before I even give birth, thus preventing even more damage to the nerves during the course of the rest of my pregnancy.

All that to say things will be pretty quiet around here for a while. Even more so than they have been anyway, that is. I will be able to respond to comments while in hospital and will probably visit other people’s blogs but it’s unlikely that I’ll attempt a post from my phone. But hey, at least I’ll have plenty of extra time to read for a couple of weeks!