Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Getting to 23 weeks - This has been child's play!

Hello world!  My name is Leslie Paffe and I'm just your average South Texan.  I work in the restaurant industry where I sell food and alcohol safety training products and provide strategic support for a myriad of other products and services to my customers.   I love my job, the industry I'm in and the customers I call on.
Prior to becoming pregnant I also enjoyed some extra-curricular activities:  I'm a country singer, write songs, run marathons, am a triathlete, bake, socialize with friends but my proudest accomplishment and the thing that means the absolute most to me in this world is being Gayland Paffe's wife.  I like to call myself a "late bloomer", I married my partner, best friend and soulmate at the ripe 'ole age of 34 on October 19th, 2011, over-looking the crystal clear waters of Caribbean sea on the sugar-white sands of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  It was the happiest day of my life, until the next day and the next day and the next day....
Perhaps I'm unusual but I have never had a burning desire to be someone's mother.  I never thought I would be someone's wife so when that worked out so well I thought, "What the heck!  Why rock the boat?  I don't need a kid.  Let's just enjoy each other."  My dreams consisted of putting out another album, traveling to Europe with my better half, eating fabulous foods, spending time with my girlfriends,  running the New York City marathon and many others.  My husband, on the other hand, felt differently.  He waited to get married until he was 44 (he'll be the first to tell all those naysayers that, "yes, I haven't been married before but I've also never been divorced."  I always loved that line...I for one couldn't say the same).  He's always had a burning desire to be a father so I reluctantly agreed to go off birth control the day we got married.
We decided to run the Nashville Marathon in April of 2012.  This would be Gayland's third full race and my first.  We trained hard together and successfully completed the race!  It was awesome!  Since we had been "not trying" but "not, not trying" and had not become pregnant, I thought we would be one of those couple's that would have to do fertility treatments at some point.  Not being in any rush and wanting to fulfill my dream of completing another album, we made a decision to start tracking my ovulation in an effort to NOT get pregnant.  Yea, that worked out well!  Perhaps I should have done a little more research on the birds and the bees...as you guessed it, the month we tracked my ovulation in an effort to avoid making a baby is the exact month I got pregnant.  To say I was surprised and sickened when I peed on the stick and it gave us two lines before the urine even reached the first window, is the understatement of the millennium!  Please don't judge me when I say, I was totally PISSED OFF that I was pregnant!  I was not emotionally ready for this child and all I could do was cry and begin my weekly sessions with bad ass counselor, Sara!  The worst was calling my mom friends and family and having them tell me how excited they were for us.  If one more person told me how "GREAT" motherhood was I would have puked!  You see, when you're 35 and have a full life of amazing friends, freedom and the ability to do whatever the hell you want to do, the freight train rolling down the track in front of you is almost unbearable!
Wouldn't you know I had the worst first trimester ever!  Up until 14 weeks, I had debilitating nausea.  I travel extensively for my job so I prayed on every flight and in every minute I wouldn't yack in front of customers or fellow flyers!  I was the Chief Exit Strategist, always locating the nearest trash can or restroom in case of an emergency.  Looking back, it was quite comical!  The other challenge I faced was my body trying to adjust to the baby.  Exercise dominated my life along with very healthful eating prior to becoming pregnant.  The minute I got pregnant that all came to a screeching halt!  All the foods I loved (YEP, brussel sprouts, broccoli and carrots at least five times per week) tasted awful and things I had not thought to eat in years all-of-a-sudden became number one on my list of things to eat!  And exercise, FORGET ABOUT IT!  I was so dang tired all I could think of doing was eating in an effort to try and dull the constant nausea! What a nightmare!  My smallish framed body began changing very rapidly before my eyes!  It was humbling, to say the least.
I think things changed for me on September 14th.  I was in Beaver Creek, CO, attending a customer meeting and in the middle of one of our breaks, Baby P gave me a good, old-fashioned kick!  I was 18 weeks and 2 days pregnant and in instant went from being someone that was just pregnant to being someone's mother.  It was life-altering for me.  I almost cried in sheer joy that there was an actual person growing inside of me and not just an alien object.  It was a moment in time that will always be dear to my heart.
Moving forward I slowly began adjusting to our little angel.  I love the moments that my sweet husband rubs my stomach, but never too hard for fear he will squash Baby P (that always cracks me up).  Every sonogram we've had has been exciting and enlightening as the baby continues to grow!  I stare at the sonogram screen as the sonographer meticulously measures every limb, the baby's head and counts the heart beats.  I just want to capture every moment and put in in a mason jar for us to continuously admire on our mantle.  And, I hold my breath for fear that we will learn something is wrong with the baby...I never knew stress until I fell in love with our child.  I now understand why people say pregnancy is a miracle...it truly is a gift from God!  We've decided to wait to find out the sex of the baby when he/she is born she it's also fun guessing what we're going to have in a few months.  It truly is a joyous time.
Since we do love to travel, we made a decision to take one last trip prior to Baby P's arrival in February for our 1st wedding anniversary.  Since Gayland had never been to New York City, we thought it would be a fun weekend get-away to celebrate our first year of marriage and enjoy time together before the baby arrives.  We landed in the Big Apple on Thursday, October 18th and very quickly began our tour of the city.  The weather was mild, tons of amazing things to see and do and excitingly for me, the chance to get out and exercise like I used to prior to becoming pregnant.  We had a lovely anniversary dinner at One If By Land, Two If By Sea, a New York City landmark.  We visited the Met where I over-heated and almost fainted...not fun!  We planned to see "Rock Of Ages" on Broadway on Monday but learned at another restaurant (David Burke Kitchen...beyond fabulous brunch) that we needed to eat dinner on Sunday night at Riverpark.  Prior to our dinner, I told Gayland my back was really hurting and so was my abdomen.  Having never been pregnant, I just chalked the pain up to over excursion from sight-seeing and a lack of rest.  When we got to dinner, the pains continued and were intense enough that I would have to stop what I was saying during our conversation until the pains subsided.  Again, didn't think much about it.  We went to a jazz club after dinner and then went back to our hotel.  I didn't sleep well during the night and immediately woke-up and called my Austin-based OB/GYN.  She asked the usual questions physicians ask:  Are you having contractions?  (UH, hell if I know...what do those feel like?)  Are you bleeding? (Of course NOT)  Since I answered, "No" to her questions I was instructed to take it easy, take (2) Tylenol and call if things changed.  We shrugged our shoulders, took it easy on Monday morning and about 11am decided to take the train down to Wall Street, take the ferry over to Brooklyn and walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge.  On our way to the ferry we stopped at a Subway at the height of lunchtime so Gayland could get a Coke and I could use the restroom...This was the moment that changed my life forever and made the trials and tribulations of the first 23 weeks look like child's play...

Be careful what you wish for it might just come true!

While using the restroom at that Subway on Wall Street I discovered what every pregnant woman in the world fears...blood!  The sheer panic I felt the moment I saw it was unlike anything I've experienced before.  I instantaneously learned that those pains I have been feeling were full-fledged contractions...No Braxton Hicks here!  I could hardly get my hands washed and out of the restroom quickly enough and despite how much I tried to control my uncontrollable hysterics, I could not contain the overwhelming fear on my face and in my soul.  I literally ran out of the restroom and the minute I saw Gayland's face realized I must be a mess.  We hustled out of the restaurant as I began hysterically telling him we had to get to an ER.  Of course, in the midst of the storm we were in, I could not figure out how to work my stupid phone.  Why is it when you're body is in shambles, there are 5o0 buttons to push in order to reach the freakin' doctor's office.  After dialing and redialing my doctor, a nurse finally answered my call and told me to head straight to the ER.  All I could ask her is, "Am I going to lose the baby?"  She gave me the worst response ever, "I don't know..."
I'm still unclear if Gayland looked up a hospital before or after the blood but before I could take another step he had a cab hailed and we were off to the ER.  I remember the cab driver being as freaked out about the situation as we were and cussing every pedestrian that got in our way while he was trying to maneuver the construction lined streets of the Financial District.  Before I knew it we were in the ER and  instructed to go up to the 6th floor to Labor & Delivery.  I remember walking into the main check-in area and seeing a sea of medical professionals all staring at me blankly.  At that moment, I felt so stupid and alone but could still not get myself together.  A nurse whisked me off to triage, Gayland falling every so close behind, where I was instructed to take off all my clothes and provide a urine sample (it's a wonder I didn't pee all over my own hand at that moment).  I don't really remember what happened next but do remember realizing that we were not in just a hospital, but a TEACHING hospital which meant everyone known to man would be checking out my private parts.  (As a side bar, it took me almost 5 months to post anything on any social media site about this pregnancy so imagine my shock when I figured out a doctor that was still in "practice mode" would be doing my pelvic exam, and a male physician at that, along with all his medical students watching in...yuck)!  At this juncture, my contractions were 3 minutes apart but not painful enough that I felt like I needed medication but uncomfortable enough to require me to breathe through them.
After a myriad of very uncomfortable cervical exams it was determined that I had not begun dilating yet.  This was the best news of the day.  Had I started dilating there would have been very little they could do to stop me from going into labor and having Baby P at 23 weeks, 5 days...obviously this is not ideal.  The physician came over to my bedside, put a bed pan upside down under my bottom, lifted the bed where my hips where above my head and instructed me to lie still and relax.  They also put a fetal monitor on my tummy to monitor Baby P.  Who knows how long I laid there but at some point he came back in and began talking about a plan of action.  Being a super organizer and planning type gal myself, this was music to my ears.
Since I had not dilated, they were going to give me a shot to stop the contractions.  In addition, I was going to get two steroid shots to help the baby's lungs develop more quickly in the event I did go into labor this would help with long-term viability.  I hate shots but for some reason at that moment I don't remember any pain and was so happy to get something that would help save our child's life.  Mind over matter I suppose!  They also started me on a 48 hour medication that was to stop the contractions.  After 48 hours we were going to re-evaluate our situation and determine a long-term plan of action.  This was the first time I realized we might be in for a long haul.
Shortly there after we were moved into a labor and delivery room at the end of the hall.  It was the first time in 3 hours I was able to take a deep breath and actually relax.  My contractions were beginning to subside a bit, the baby was doing fine and my vital signs were steady too.  This was also the time we started making those dreaded phone calls to our families letting them know what was going on.  Gayland got the privilege of telling our parents and extended families the news.  In his normal calm and steady self, he delivered our information like a champ!  We told them we would be in the hospital for at least 48 hours but hoped we'd be flying back to Austin on Thursday.  We also asked to get the prayer chains going as we needed Baby P to stay put for at least four more weeks!
For the next 48 hours, I was poked, prodded, probed, checked and rechecked, monitored and left utterly exhausted.  The damn contractions never stopped completely but did slow up significantly.  What was determined from all of the examinations is an issue with my cervix.  (This is the part that makes men squirm so if you can't take the heat in the kitchen, get out!)  At almost 24 weeks pregnant my cervix is supposed to be 3.5 centimeters in length.  My cervix measure two days straight at 1.5 centimeters in length.  What this means is that any bit of stress could cause me to go into labor and have this baby!  After 48 hours, our Perinatologist came into the room to discuss my very critical and delicate situation and talk to us about options.
The Perinatologist is brilliant man!  He has More education than everyone I know put together but do not ask a direct question and expect a direct answer!  This is frustrating!  What I wanted to know is whether or not we were safe to be released and if we could fly back to Texas.  Seems easy enough, right?  NO WAY!  So much hem-hawing!  I could not get a straight answer for him.  I guess for liability purposes physicians have to be very careful in how they answer patient questions.  After 48 hours I still wasn't sure what we should do...stay or go?  I definitely did not feel right about flying back to Texas so I picked-up the phone and called my Austin OB/GYN.  I went through the entire story with her and right when I began to say, "the specialist said we might be able to fly back to Austin on Friday…" she interrupted me and said there was no way on earth I was getting on an airplane in the next two to four weeks.  If I were to go into labor while on a flight back to Texas the odds are I would have the baby on the plane and it would not make it  and additionally, my life would be at risk as well.
Finally, a decision was made!  Both doctors came to the same conclusion...we are in New York for a minimum of four  more weeks.  If I do deliver early (between now and 28 weeks) there is a good chance the baby will live since this hospital we're in is affiliated with (Cornell University Hospital) has a Level 3 NICU that takes babies starting at 24 weeks.  I'm on a new medication that will sustain me for the duration of the pregnancy.  Though the contractions have not stopped completely, they are much less regular than they were a week ago.
Once we discovered we would be discharged (last Friday morning) we feverishly began looking for a place to stay.  The hotel our bags stayed in while Gayland and I stayed in the hospital was absolutely amazing (The Distrikt Hotel...you must consider staying here if you come to NYC) and offered us a room for a month at a discounted rate.  Though we were thankful for the option, staying at a hotel would require us to eat out three square meals a day which would be incredibly expensive.  We began scouring internet websites such as VRBO.com, Homeaway.com, AirBNB.com, etc. and had very little luck locating a reliable housing option for the next month.  One of my sorority sisters from Texas A&M texted me with a recommendation...Email the Texas A&M Club in New York City and ask them if they can be of assistance.  Again, God's blessings surrounded us.  I emailed the president of the club explaining our situation and within 8 hours I had three emails from different Aggies offering assistance.  One of the recommendations was for corporate housing with a company called "Oakwood".  I got on the phone a representative from the company and within four hours we had ourselves temporary housing in New York City.  It was an incredibly emotional moment for us.  To think of the kindness of strangers...It was overwhelming!  Throughout our ordeal, New Yorkers are truly some of the most amazing people on earth.  Our doctors, nurses, medical assistants, labor & deliver staff, restaurant servers, restaurant general managers, bellmen in our building...the list goes on and one...we have been surrounded by more love and kindness from people that we don't know than we ever expected!  God's blessings are surrounding us non-stop and we are eternally thankful.
Pleas allow me to digress slightly...I'm sure you're wondering what "Paffe for President" means.  Such a great question!  Our Baby P has been an active little baby since inception.  With all that has happened we are certain our child will be President but if not, they are going to make a big difference in this world...Either way, we felt "Paffe For President' was a fitting name for our story!
Back on topic, we got out of the hospital on Friday and went to a Holiday Inn in midtown where we rested soundly for the first time in four nights.  On Saturday morning we packed-up our lives into three suitcases and left for a brand new adventure in the big city...We got checked into our apartment only to turn on the TV and learn of our next biggest challenge....Hurricane Sandy!