The Zarb Homestead

Living natural and healthy on a simple budget

Jasper River’s Birth Story September 23, 2016

Filed under: Baby Z — Sheena @ 1:19 pm
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There was only 5 more days left before Jasper would be overdue for arrival. I was super ready to meet our new baby. I was very tired of being pregnant and on top of that going to UT HiRoc weekly for my “gestational diabetes.” I was having to test my blood sugars 4 times/day and being on a low carb diet, all this was getting old. Side note: I never truly believed I had GD in the first place. I failed the one hour test and the 3 hour test but just barely. I am not one to eat a lot of sugar, I do not drink sodas, and normally eat a healthy diet. I recently found out that the oral glucose test is not very accurate and can give false positives if your body is not use to that crazy amount of sugar they make you drink. I had UT test my A1C, this measures your blood glucose over the last 3 months, and it was 4.5 (level of a non-diabetic.) The dietitian said that was better than hers and she agreed that I did not have GD but at that point I only had 1 week left of pregnancy so we decided not to do anything about it.


Despite my large belly, I was able to still be fairly active. I hiked 5 miles at Cades Cove the weekend before while Phil rode his bike with Little O around the loop. I was trying to get things moving a long; however, despite a few hard contractions it did not work. I tried all the old wives’ tales on how to naturally induce labor, except for the castor oil. I heard that would cause loose stools and that does not sounds pleasant during child birth. I went in for my weekly appointment and had an ultrasound and they said that the baby was getting very large and they would have to induce if he did not come on his own soon. As much as I did not want to be induced, I would rather do that vs having a c section. I agreed with them and was told to come in at midnight on Sunday to get things started.

My first baby was also an induction at Vanderbilt due to his heart condition so I thought I knew what to expect. I never wanted a hospital birth in the first place. I have always gone to Lisa Ross Birthing Center and saw midwives for my prenatal care. I have heard horror stories about hospital births. With my first baby I took all the birthing classes and was excited to see that Vanderbilt had a birthing tub and I was hoping for a drug free labor but once I arrived I was told due to his heart condition I was not able to move or use the tub. I ended up with an epidural and they would not follow anything on my birthing plan. My husband did not even get to cut the cord. I was so disappointment by that labor experience. I was excepting the same thing to occur at UT. I am happy to say I was dead wrong.


I had to call UT before we left the house to make sure they had the staff and the room to induce me that night. Thankfully they did and we were on our way. Phil and I arrived at UT labor and delivery at midnight on Sunday/Monday. There was only one other patient on the floor so it was a slow night for them, despite the full moon. My first nurse, Treva, welcomed us to our room for the night. She informed us on what was going to happen to get things started. Next, the doctors came in to check my cervix to see if I was dilated anything. I was only at 1 cm, I had been at 1 cm since my 37 week check, but my cervix was as soft as butter, so I had that going for me. They decided to try the folly bulb to get me to dilate however my cervix was high and tilted. Despite 3 doctors trying to get it inserted did not work and they decided to start me on pitocin. I have never had pitocin before and was nervous about it. I heard it can cause a very painful labor and to go with the lowest dose as possible. I did not even have to tell them I wanted to start on the low dose. They started me at 1 unit and slowly increased it 1 unit every 45 minutes until I was at 10 units then the increased by 2 units. It was working, I could feel the contractions starting but they were very manageable. If I laid on my left side it almost made the go away completely. This was a slow process but there was no rush.

My mother soon arrived while Phil got some sleep. It was also shift change for the nurses. My nurse Treva was being replaced by Rachel. You never know what you are going to get with nurses, some are great while others… not so much. Rachel came in an introduced herself and she smelled like lavender essential oil. This made me feel like I was in good hands and like minds. I honestly had not made birthing plan with Jasper. I did not think it was necessary since they are going to do whatever the want to anyways, like Vanderbilt. I quickly found out at UT this was not the case. I had dreamed of a natural childbirth with Little O and sadly was not able to achieve that. I had not recently taken any classes on natural childbirth and did not feel like I was prepared for it. The nurse advised me she prefers natural labor and would be able to help me during labor. UT also has a lot tools to aid in labor: birthing balls, walking (wireless monitors), aromatherapy,  showers, etc. I was super impressed with my options and decided I was going to try natural childbirth but was always open to an epidural.

It was 8:00 am when the team of doctors came in to check my progress. I had went from 1 cm to 4 cm and they decided to break my water to get things moving quicker. I guess when you have a large baby you also have a lot of water. The nurse said she had never seen that much water before, a bit embarrassing. With the water pressure gone it actually relieved some of the pressure. Contractions started getting closer and harder, fast. I remember this happening with Little O. I went from 2 cm to 8 cm within an hour. At this stage of labor I was still able to walk around and get up to use the restroom but it was getting very painful! I was doing my deep breathing to try to work through the contractions. A couple of hours had past and I was in a lot of pain. I was having back labor and could not find anything to relieve it. The contractions were so intense I could hardly move an inch without bringing on another one. I had Phil call the nurse, I needed/wanted the epidural.

After what feels like an hour, the pain relief team arrived. They are telling me what they are going to do but I honesty could not even open my eyes to see who I was talking to. They set up their area and tell me I have to get into a certain position to be able to insert the epidural. Negative, that was not going to happen. At this point, I was on all fours in the hospital bed and could hardly move. I told the nurse that I thought I was close and felt like I needed to push. I kept apologizing to the epidural team and was finally able to sit down. They got the catheter in place and then the nurse was asking me if I wanted her to check my progress. I was able to get onto my back and when she checked she called the doctors in. Jasper was coming and fast. It was go time! My epidural got put into place but never got the chance to even get hooked up.

We have all seen scenes on TV where the women is having a baby and people are holding her legs as she pushes. Well, it was just like that. My husband had left leg and my mom the right. They would count 3 sets of 10 and let me rest. When I would feel another contraction and I would start again. Pushing actually helped with the pain. The team of doctors where all around the room plus the nurses and my family. To say the least your privacy is out the window and you do not give one care in the world. Then I hear the room fill with a panic. As I turn to my left, my husband is no longer standing holding my leg but yet is holding onto one of the doctors before he hits the floor and passes out. All I could think was I can not hold this baby in any longer and he is going to miss his son being born. I had to keep pushing. My mother was able to get him a chair beside the hospital bed and he came to fast but was very weak. I had forgotten that in the mix of all that was happening he had not eaten in 15 hours and does not do well with blood. Nurse Rachel called to the nurses station for them to bring him a soda and once he was able to get some sugar he started feeling better. A minute or two later the panic hits the room again. This time it was the male doctor hitting the floor. I do not know what I have going on down there but men are hitting the floor. Thank goodness there where some women doctors in the room because one more push and out comes my screaming little Jasper. Total pushing time 10 minutes.


Jasper River Zarb was born at 11:27 am on 9/19/2016. His weight: 8 lbs 15 oz, this was his weight after 2 large pees all over the doctors and me. Length: 20.7 and Head Circumference: 14 inches. I did have a few requests once he was born. I wanted to delay cutting of the cord, no bath, no circumcision and uninterrupted skin to skin with my newborn. UT made sure I was able to get all my requests and it was communicated to everyone in the room. Once it was time to cut the cord my husband was still coming around but not enough to stand so my mom got the honors. After an hour of skin to skin the nurse came in to get his measurements and to give him a exam. He was prefect! I wish I was able to hold O after birth but I got about 30 seconds and he was rushed away to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.


We were off to the Mother Baby unit to recovery. My closest friend Maria was waiting on us there, she also happened to be my RN. Maria went over what to expect in mine and Jasper’s care for the day/night and we were able to get some rest.I was able to eat and get a change of clothes. It made all the difference in the world, I felt like a new woman. We had a few family members come visit but overall once nighttime arrived we where left alone. I never thought I would get any sleep in a hospital but I was only waken a few times that night to get my vitals and to check on my bleeding. Jasper had to get some blood draws to test his glucose levels since he was such a large baby and he also needed an ECHO due to his brother having CHD. Despite the lack of sleep the night before and the whole natural childbirth thing I was feeling great! Our stay was short because we wanted our of there ASAP. The minimum requirement is 24 hours and that is what we got. We both where discharged happy and healthy the next day.





We made it! Oryon will soon be 1 November 14, 2014

Filed under: Baby Z — Sheena @ 9:35 pm
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It is so hard to believe that we will be celebrating Oryon’s first birthday tomorrow (3 days early) Looking back at the past 2 years, pregnancy and birth, it was the hardest time of our lives. We never knew what the universe had in store for our little guy and honestly we did not know if we would ever have a first birthday to celebrate. “They” say, if heart babies make it to their first birthday then they should do just fine. I hope this holds true for us.


Here is me this time last year. The memories flood my head; I was so nervous. I was temperately living in Nashville, in case I went into labor before 39 weeks, we had to be close to Vanderbilt. I was told Oryon would not survive anywhere else, he had to be born there. My husband could not stay with me the whole time due to work and only came to visit on the weekends. I remember feeling numb, numb to everything and to everyone. I did not want to feel mainly because I did not know how to feel. How could I be happy but I was. I was so happy I would see my son soon but that also meant I may loose my son too.

I am SO HAPPY now! I wish I could have known everything would work out for us back then.


First Video Blog June 23, 2014

Filed under: Baby Z — Sheena @ 12:40 pm
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Baby Z: Step Down Unit April 22, 2014

Filed under: Baby Z — Sheena @ 2:01 pm
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November 24, 2013: We moved to our new room on the 7th floor, Room 7303. We were so happy that Baby Z was getting better and we were hoping to go home soon. We now had some privacy because this room had a door vs just a curtain like before. We unpacked our things and met all the new nursing staff. The goal of the Step Down Unit is to teach you how to take care of your “special needs” baby while at home. The nurses there had many patients, 7-1, so they were there just in case you needed them. They would come in every few hours and take his vitals and asked if we needed anything but we were in charge of diapers and feedings. We were super nervous about taking care of this little guy. This was our first baby thus we were still learning how to do the normal baby things and on top of that, how to care for a heart baby. We had to weigh each diaper and record the weights on a dry ease board along with how much he was eating each feeding. We loved being able to do the normal parenting stuff. The sleep schedule: Daddy stayed up until 3:00 am with Baby Z then Mommy’s shift would start while Daddy got some sleep. We both ended up with about 3 hours of sleep a night. The first night Baby Z was sleeping so Dad thought he would sneak in a quick relaxing shower, wrong. I was awoken by the sounds of alarms going off and a room full of doctors and nurses. I was so sleep deprived I honestly could not comprehend something was wrong at first. Dad came out of the bathroom and had no clue what was going on either. A nurse came over to us an explain that Baby Z was having what called tachycardia. His heart rate was in the 250’s and if it did not stop they could give him a medication that may help but they wanted to wait to to see if it would go down on its own. After ten minutes, which felt like 5 hours, he was able to get down to normal range. I was so relived but the relief was short lived because once all the doctors and nurses left his room they had to come rushing back because it had started again. Alarms were screaming, his heart rate very high, and little Baby Z just sat there staring at us like he had no clue what was going on. He was able to fix it every time and did not need to medication. We had about 10 episodes that night. Super scary night for Mom and Dad. 999300_718259472248_1677302672_n November 25 2013: The doctors say tachycardia can be common after surgery. They started a drip of  magnesium, his blood work showed it was low, and the cardiologist are put him on a medication for rhythm issues . Unfortunately, all this meant that we would be staying a few extra nights. He still had his chest tube in and so he was on Tylenol because they can be painful. That day, they started to wean him off the Oxygen and he seemed to be doing well with that. The new heart medicine was horrible. He hates it. One of the nurses said that some of the bigger kids says it can make their mouth numb. It took us forever to get it down him. Then once he had taken the medicine, he screamed for hours. It was a 2 hour ordeal and we had to give it every 8 hours. I was sleeping and Dad was on duty when I was awoken by the familiar loud dinging. The room filled up with doctors and nurses again. There was a new doctor on night shift and he wanted to try somethings that may help him come out of tachycardia faster. They put ice on his face. He was not happy about this. He screamed and it did not seem to be helping. After a few minutes they put in a rectal thermometer. They were trying to get him to bear down, not working. He was able to come out of it on his own after a few minutes. Just like the night before the alarms continued to go on and off all night. He had 5 episodes that night. 1453466_718582430038_1800495715_n November 26, 2013: Today was our hearing test just one more thing to check off our list before going home and thankfully he passed with flying colors. The day consisted of the normal: EKG’s at 4:00 am, Chest X-ray at 5:00 am, Meet new doctor at 6:00 am, Meet new nurses at 7:00 am, wait for the doctors to make rounds all morning to see what the plan for the day would be. Not much changed this day. I dreaded to see the sun set because when night fall came I did not what it would bring. I may or may not be awoken by alarms going off and my sweet little baby’s heart racing. I would sit and watch the monitors all day and all night long. It would drive me crazy just wondering if it would alarm. When Baby Z would move about it would make the sensors misread and it would ding. You never knew if it was a misread or a real issue until you ran and looked at the monitor. I was driving myself nuts. Dad had finished his shift for the night and now it was my turn. It was 4:30 am and I had just got finished feeding him and was rocking him to sleep in the rocking chair. It started, the alarms were going off. My stomach fell to the floor, not again. Dad awoke, in came the staff and they swept him out of my arms onto the hospital bed. I felt so helpless. After 6 minutes they decided to try the ice and try to get him to bear down, did not work. As always, he came right out of it on his own and acted like nothing happened. Unlike the previous nights this was the only time the doctors came in the room, no more attacks all night 1012485_719118855038_1359960595_n November 27, 2013: After the normal day of EKG, X-rays, etc the head doctor made his rounds. He was not happy that the new doctor placed the ice on his face that early. He said his orders were to only do this after 15 minutes of SVT. He told us to not let them do it if they try. We called him Dr. House. He got the job done and he wasn’t worried about hurting someones feelings. The plan for the day was to change his heat medicine to another in hopes it worked better for him and that he would like the new one better. Chest tubes came out this day and so did the Oxygen! I was so happy we were making some progress in the right direction. Night came and we were able to sleep because we had a normal heart rate all night! I was so relieved. 1422621_719422271988_1352274636_n November 28, 2013:  Happy Thanksgiving! I was so thankful for everything! Many people felt bad that we spent the holiday in the hospital. We were just thankful that we had our sweet little family all together. Today we got our first bath! It was not a tube bath just a sponge but still it was relaxing for him and he passed out afterwards. Mom and Dad had to take a CPR classes and we had no SVT all night! This would make 2 nights in a row and if we go SVT free tonight we get to go home! unnamed (2)1464663_719784790498_1337985623_n November 29, 2013: Things were finally winding down and we were checking things off the list before we could go home. We still needed to do the car seat test. This is were they sit the baby in their car seat and they have to stay in there as long as your ride home would be. The nurses watch their vitals to make sure they stay within normal limits. Since we lived 3 hours away, they decided to just do 1.5 hours because we would stop half way and get him out. I have no clue why but I was so nervous about this silly test. We put him in the seat and started the clock. It was not 3 minutes later the nurse comes in says “why are you felling.” His O2 stats were in the 70’s, not good, We made some adjustments to the seat, the newborn headrest was removed and we put in a booster pad, and that seemed to help. After 1.5 hours he passed! I was so happy and finally could quit stressing over it. If he did fell he would just have to have a bed like car seat that he lays flat in. Not the end of the world but something I did not want to have. We did not have SVT again so we get to go home tomorrow! 1462858_720113701358_836164451_n November 30, 2013:  Going home today and now the real adventure begins! unnamed (3)1466241_720232238808_1655239426_n


Baby Z: Post Surgery PCCU February 26, 2014

Day 4 (November 21, 2013)

The hard part was over, now what. Baby Z had gone through open heart surgery and survived. Now we wait. Wait to heal and wait to hear if we would be home for Thanksgiving, wait on everything. We got a sleep room our first night in the PCCU, pediatric cardiac critical care unit. These are slim pickin’ and hard to get but we were so thankful for one. It had a queen size bed with a foam mattress and not much else. You had to check in at 9:00 pm and be out by 10:00 am. That room was meant for sleeping only and that is what we did. We awoke at 6:00 am and Mr. Z ran down the hall to check on Baby Z. He wanted to get there before to nurse change to get an update on how he did in the night and to also meet the day nurse.

Baby Z was still much sedated and did not move or open his eyes until late that night. He was still on all the medicines but he was very swollen due to all the fluids he received to increase his blood pressure from the night before. They added Lasix to get some of the fluid out of his little body but he still was not peeing enough, so they upped it more. This seemed to help and we were producing lots of urine by the afternoon. The scariest part as this time was the ventilator. I hated watching a machine breath for my baby. The night nurse advised me that they were going to start trying to wean him off of the vent and run some tests during the night. They would take him off for an hour and back on for 3 hours and continue until they thought he was able to come completely off. They draw blood at these times to see how our blood gases were doing and if he passed 3 blood draws he could come off. I was super excited to hear this news. By the time we went to bed we got the news he had passes his first test.


Day 5 (November 22, 2013)

Thankfully we were once again able to get a sleep room for the night. We awoke at 6:00 am and rushed down the hall to the PCCU. We walk into his room and see our baby with no breathing tube. He was extubated right before we arrived, we missed it 😦 He now had a nasal cannula that was giving him small amounts of oxygen.20131122_115626-MIX20131122_102752

We had big changes this day. They decided today they would let him try to eat for the first time ever. He had a speech therapist come to evaluate him and she thought he would be able to give it a try. We started with 5 mls of breast milk and he loved it! They also removed some of his IV medicines. It was such a nice feeling to start seeing things less stuff on him. That night we did not get a sleep room. We stayed in his room which had a fold out bed big enough for one person to sleep and a rocking chair. He did get one of the newer rooms that had its own private bathroom, that was nice plus. It was not comfortable by any means but we both were able to snuggle tightly on that bed and slept okay during the night.

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I loved seeing less of theses. We are down to only 2 rows! There were 4.

Day 6 (November 23, 2013)

Not much happened this day. Mostly just waiting to see how he did without most of his IV medicines. They were able to stop all the medicines, even his heart meds, and waited to see how he would do. They also removed his Art line (a thin catheter inserted into an artery) this had to be done while a heart surgeon was on duty in case some happened since this line ran straight to his heart.  He was now on oral calcium, Pepcid, and Lasix and doing great! They were happy with his urine output and was able to get his urinary catheter removed and got to wear a diaper.

We once again slept in his room with him but we liked it much better because we did not worry as much as before when we were in the sleep rooms. It was not comfortable but we did not care. He had a flat screen TV and Mr Z, being an engineer, rigged it so we could control it via cellphone, so we had some entertainment. We still had our family coming and going the whole time so there was not time to get bored. Once everyone left, visiting hours were 9:00 -9:00, we relaxed and tried to sleep. Nurses came and went all night long but they really tried not to disturb you. We LOVED the nurses in the PCCU! 20131120_190155

This is his room in the PCCU

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This is the view from the back were we stayed.


Day 7 (November 24, 2013)

Big day today! We were moving up to the 7th floor and mommy finally got to hold Baby Z for the first time since his surgery! What a relief! Baby Z would be moving to his own room. There we were excepted to do most of his care,unlike the PCCU, there was 1 nurse to 4 babies on the 7th floor. In the PCCU he had his own nurse, just for him. They rolled his big boy crib in the room were getting ready for the big move. We were so happy. Everything was happening so fast. The doctors did their rounds, they released him, we packed all our stuff, held Baby Z, the nurse packed Baby Z things and off we went. We were in his room before lunch time.

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Baby Z, Surgery Story February 5, 2014

I didn’t sleep well the first night in the hospital without my baby. I just felt wrong. He was sleeping in his NICU with his nursing staff at his side while his Mom and Dad were in another hospital. I was now moved in the postpartum ward at Vanderbilt, exhausted and waiting to get discharged but that would not happen for another full day.  As soon as we were able to go visit him, we did. My nurses were not very happy with me because I was never in my room; I had more important places to be. Day 2 was spent in the NICU. In the NICU there were many rules to follow. Only 2 people in the room at a time, must wash hands before entering, you had to be buzzed in, and if you weren’t mom or dad you had to be “the list” to go back.  The whole day was spent letting people in and out to visit and anxiously waiting to hear from the surgeon hoping we wouldn’t miss him. We had no time when he would be by to talk with us just sometime in the afternoon.


At this point we still did not know what we were facing surgery wise. We didn’t know if he was going to be able to use his full heart with some alternations or were we heading down the half a heart, 3 open heart surgeries route.  It was late in the evening when his surgeon stopped by his room to talk. They let more than allowed amount of people in the room for this conversion. I apprehensively sat next to my husband awaiting my newborns fate.  He said surgery was going to be early the next morning and his plan was to repair his narrowed aortic arch and patch the hole in his heart. Once inside, he was going to have to measure the left side of the heart to see if it would be adequate in size to work. If not then we would have to have the first of a 3 part surgery series, the Norwood.

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The unknown was killing us. We did not know what to say to each other let alone to our family and friends who were waiting in the hospital day and night with us. How do you act when you don’t even know if your baby was going to live or die? Exhausted, we both crawled into my small hospital bed and we tried to sleep as much as we could.

End of day 2


We had to be in his room by 6:00 am the next morning but we arrived earlier to spend some time with him. I was trying to stay strong but I could not take it any longer. I broke down once I knew it was really going to happen. I sat there rocking my sweet boy in my arms not knowing if I would ever be able to hold him again. My 2 day old son was about to have open heart surgery and there was nothing I could do about it. They said it was time to go to per-operation area and they rolled his warming unit onto the elevator and up into his little waiting area. There was no one around us, just husband and I alone with our little man. We once again tried to stay strong for him but once the nurses and doctors said they were ready for him and rolled him back, we both lost it. We stayed in the back until we could get a grip on our emotions. After about ten minutes, we headed into the surgery waiting room were our family was waiting. They all hugged us but we were emotionless by this time. I still had to go back to Vanderbilt to get discharged, anything to keep me busy. It took about 2 hours to pack everything up, shower and get my final checkup. We patiently waited by the cellphone for the surgeon’s nurse to call. She would call us every hour or so with an update and let us know how he was doing. The conversation was very short but at least we knew how surgery was going. We got a call stating that he was about to be out of surgery and to head to the surgery waiting room. I was not sure what to think. The surgery was supposed to take a lot longer than 3 hours. Did something go wrong, was he not able to fix it, did he code? I was a mess. We still were not out of postpartum ward but yet again I waved to my nurse and ran out the door.

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Waiting to go back for surgery

We had a nurse at the Children’s Hospital nurse take us the long way to around were we would hear the news alone from the surgeon before having to tell our family what was going on. As soon as we sat down in the crowed waiting room, out came the surgeon in light blue scrubs. Very calmly, he said he was able to repair the aortic arch and patch the hole. The big news was he said that the left side of the heart measured adequate! We could have fainted. Our baby was going to have a whole heart! He said he would be in recovery then moved to the PICU within a few hours. We calmly, holding hands, walked to the elevators and looked at each other and lost our emotions once again but this time they were tears of happiness. We had been through so much together the past 9 months and finally we had an answer. We walked into the NICU waiting room just crying. Our family did not know what to think, good or bad? I was finally able to get it out what the surgeon had told us and hugged everyone. To celebrate we went downstairs and had lunch and ice cream. We finally were able to go back to postpartum and finally get discharged.

We waited at the PICU until they said we could go back and see him. We prepared ourselves for the worse. I knew he would be sedated and be hooked up to many machines and IV’s. They said he may even be hooked up to ECMO. This is a heart and lung bypass machine. We walk into his room; there he was, our sweet little baby boy. He looked so good! His nurse, Anna, was telling us about everything that was hooked up to him and why. She was working on him and we were just getting settled in then it happened, he coded. His blood pressure hit rock bottom, stat button was pressed and we were moved to the back of the room. The room filled with doctors and nurses and then in ran his surgeon. He asked the nurse what she did. He said he was too stable for this to happen. The nurse came to the back of the room to tell us what was going on. She stated that he was very dry. Once they started giving him lots of fluids and his blood pressure started coming back up. The alarms stated to silence and he was finally stable once again. She told us he would be very swollen the next day due to the fluid but in a day or two it would go back down. This was such a scary moment that we will never forget.


I have never posted this picture before but now I feel okay doing it. See that little thing laying on the PCCU bed, that is Baby Z. He is hooked up to a lot of stuff 😦


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These pictures are scary to look at even now.

About 8:00 pm, our family was able to come back and see him, 3 at a time. Everyone was happy the way he looked. 9:00pm came and visiting hours were over.  It had been a long day and we were able to get a sleep room for the night. We gave our little man a kiss and went to bed. We slept very well that night. I do not know if this was due to exhaustion or relief. Whichever it was, it felt great.

That was the end of day 3


Baby Z’s Birth Story January 6, 2014

Filed under: Baby Z — Sheena @ 5:42 pm
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I know it has been awhile since my last update, I have been an extremely busy mommy. I wanted to share in more detail about the experience we went through while at Vanderbilt Hospital. I am going to break in down into different blogs because it is a big story to tell.

To start the journey off, will be his birth story.

November 7th was my last day in Knoxville; I was packing my bags to move in with my mother-in-law for almost 2 weeks before I was scheduled to be induced on November 17th. I choose option vs. being induced at 37 weeks because I wanted Baby Z to be as big and as healthy as he could possibly be. My husband was only going to be able to stay with me until Sunday, a week before the big day, because he had to go back to work. What a long week it was without him. I have never been away from him that long plus being 39 weeks pregnant did not help the situation. I was worried out of my mind! I was hoping I would not go into labor early with him being 3 hours away; plus, I did not know what to expect with Baby Z. Would he be big enough, healthy enough, and strong enough for surgery? I honestly did not know even if he would survive. I had no guarantees about anything. That was the worst part, the unknown.


Husband in hand, the big day finally arrived. We packed the car and headed to the hospital ready to meet our sweet Baby Z. The drive was slow due to the weather. It was pouring down rain and extremely hard to see. It also happened to be a full moon that night. We stopped along the way for pizza. My “last meal” as my family called it before heading to the hospital. Once we arrived at the hospital, I was admitted in labor and delivery at 8:00 pm. I was in my room at set up about 10:00 pm. The room was nice and large. It had a big window, bathroom, rocking chair, fold out beds, and a flat screen TV. The nurse came in and gave me a medicine that would thin out my cervix. I was told, once that worked (in about 4 hours) that I would be given another medicine named pitocin to start my labor. The nurse informed me that it could take 24 hours before Baby Z would arrive.  We were ready to settle in for a lengthy stay.

Later in the night, the nurse came in the room to check my progress. The medicine had done its job but they wanted to make me dilate faster, I was only at 2 cm. They decided to help me along with the balloon catheter procedure. This is where they insert a catheter into your cervix and fill it with water. Once filled, they will tug on it to help your cervix dilate faster. This is better for baby, as it doesn’t seem to cause any fetal distress like pitocin can. I still had not had any pain medicine at this point and that was PAINFUL! I could not even describe how bad that hurt. After it was all over, I had to get up to use the bathroom. I was trying to be so careful. I didn’t want to have to go through that again, but in the end it fell out anyways.  The husbands calls the nurse and tells them what happen and they said that was good and we should be on our way into active labor. That worked fast. I was having contractions steady now, every few minutes. I was trying to be quite and let my husband sleep because he had also had a long day. My mother set up with me and helped me with the pain until it become too much and we woke him up.

The contractions were growing fast and becoming very painful. My husband got concerned when I was having contractions back-to-back, not even a minute apart, and paged the nurse. My “birth plan” was to have a natural labor without any pain medicine; however, once I asked the nurse about the room with the birthing tub and was told that would not be an option for me since the baby had to be monitored at all times, my plans changed fast. I gave it an honest go, about 6 hours, but since I was not able move due to the monitors, I needed the epidural. The doctors came in and they were much welcomed. They made my mother and my friend leave the room and only the husband was allowed to stay. They told me to sit on the edge of the bed and to lend forward into my husband. I had to sit still. There was a nurse was on my right side holding me down to make sure I did not move. I was informed that some people feel a zing that runs down their right leg but most the time it is painless. Well, if you know me then you know my luck. The doctor started the procedure and ZING right down my leg. It felt like I was electrocuted; try to stay still during that, sure thing. The doctor had to start all over. Second time around, ZING right down my leg again. I was not in a good mood by this time. I was having contractions back-to-back while being electrocuted down my leg along with people holding me down; I was so ready for some relief. Finally, they got it in place and the epidural kicked in. Sweet relief! They gave me a button to press if I thought I needed a boost of medicine but I never pushed it. I could still feel my legs and even move them some. It felt like when your legs “fell asleep.” The best part was there was no more labor pain.

The nurse came in again to check me after the epidural was in place and working. She asked me how far along I thought I was. I guessed maybe 4 cm. I knew the past few hours were very painful but I had never done this before so I wanted to set myself failure. Nope, I was very wrong. She made my mom, husband and friend all guess. Everyone was too low. Shockingly she said told us that I was 8 cm! I had gone from 2 cm to 8 cm in the matter of a few hours. That explains why I was in so much pain. Finally, I able to get some rest and gain some of my strength back. When I feel asleep the sun was rising outside my window so I knew morning had came. I did not look at the clock much but I knew they came in to check me again a few hours later. I was told I was at 10 cm but he was still high so they just let me rest more and let him move down on his own. I think it was around 10:00 am and the nurse came in and said it was time to push. I was so tried by this time but I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.


I wasn’t really sure how to push. I know that sounds odd but I thought I was going to do it wrong. The nurse reassured me that I was doing a great job. She told me when I was having a contraction and push for 10 seconds, breath, push for 10 more seconds. I thought labor would be a lot more exciting than it really was. It honestly was very calming. The TV had the relaxation channel on and it was super quiet in the room. The nurse even made a comment that I was so composed to be having a baby. That is the one thing we really wanted, a stress-free labor. We knew after he was here we would be stressed to the max thus we wanted the calm before the storm.  11:00am, his head was crowning and it was time for the doctors to enter the room. That is right doctors, many, many doctors. Then in came the large NICU team. Vanderbilt has large delivery rooms but by the time everyone was in the room (12 people) there was not room to move. I could not even see him being born because a doctor had to stand in front of my mirror. After and 1.5 hours of pushing out he came, 11:18am. I was told that my husband would be able to cut the cord and I would be able to hold him for 15 minutes before they took him to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital but sadly this did not happen. Out he came, doctor cut the cord, they held him up said “baby boy” and took him to the NICU team at the warmer. This is when he started crying and that made me feel better. Mr. Z had to push his way to be able to see him and to get some pictures. Once they got his IV’s started they let me hold him for about 30 seconds and out of the room he went.




We agreed the Mr. Z would go with him to Children’s Hospital while my friend would stay with me. All of our family was able to greet him in the labor and delivery hallway. Once they did the footprint and the grandparents got some pictures, they rushed him down the long hallway that connected the two hospitals.



Mr. Z told me, that his room in the NICU was lined wall-to-wall with sterile equipment. The room and once again was full with doctors and nurses. Everyone had a job to do; some were getting an echo of his heart, others taking his vitals, and some putting in his IV lines. You could cut the tension with a knife. Everything was going to plan then a nurse yelled “oh, he got me.” She said she had been a NICU nurse 22 years and never once been peed on until now. That loosened the tension and made everyone feel more relaxed. I was getting text updates with pictures, which made me feel better but I wish I could have been there for him. 


With Daddy in the NICU while Baby Z is getting an ECHO

After 5 hours I was able to go see him for the first time. My husband wheeled me into his little NICU pod. He looked much better than I pictured. He looked “normal” with just a few lines coming from him. He was breathing room air and heart was beating well. All vitals were normal and he even scored a 9 on his APGAR. We even got to hold him that night. This goes to show that many people get home from the hospital with “normal” babies and then after a day or 2 they turn blue. We were very thankful we knew prenatal that he was going to be special heart baby, but many do not.



My Parents


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I was with almost everything that day. I was a little upset that the labor did not go as planned once he arrived. There was no reason to rush him off like they did and my husband should have been able to cut his cord. All the doctors and nurses kept saying “he is so pink.” I guess there miss communication among the doctors and the NICU team. Still, I will never get that back but I am just so thankful for my little man.

8lbs 5oz and 19 inches long  

That was the end of day one, 11/18.