Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hurricane Matthew and Historic Properties

Sometimes during a natural disaster we don't think much about our historic buildings. It's important to know in the aftermath how to treat historic properties that have sustained damage.

Hurricane Matthew has had a devastating effect here in North Carolina with the flooding of so many communities and homes in addition to the loss of life. Once the waters have receded, we must think long and hard about how to rebuild appropriately in order to save the parts of our built environment that are so important to our local and state history. Documentation of the damage is critically important!

Most large-scale historic sites should have a plan for natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding.  But many smaller historic sites as well as commercial historic downtowns and historic districts that never expected flooding do not have a plan. Below are some links to valuable resources providing information from the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office on what to do should a natural disaster strike in order to protect and repair historic properties.

Click HERE for a great article from the NC HPO's website on the importance of planning for natural disasters near historic properties.

Click HERE for information on Hurricane Preparedness and please check out all the other links (located HERE) to very informative articles on other disaster preparedness topics such as "Tips for Drying Out a Water Damaged Building," "Reporting Damage to Your Historic Property," and many more.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sharing my Birth Story (Finally)

After almost 3 years since the girls were born I thought it was about time that I shared with you my birth story. I never intended to share it so publically but I hope I can connect to and perhaps help other women who have experienced similar things in childbirth.

I am one of those who describe my birth experience as "traumatic." We had a lot of things happen that were unexpected and scary and as a result I don't remember a lot of the details and the rocky recovery made caring for newborn twins especially difficult.

The week before I delivered my girls

The morning I was induced I had an appointment with my OBGYN, which at that time the appointments and ultrasounds were frequent due to the fact that I was already dilated and the MFM doctors needed to do weekly ultrasound tests for the babies to make sure they were doing okay. My blood pressure had been slowly creeping up over the previous couple of months and on this day it was high (around 150/100). My normal non-pregnant blood pressure is usually in the low 100s over 70 or so, sometimes lower. They checked my urine there in the office and sent me to the hospital for a 24 hour urine count and monitoring. If my blood pressure did not come down they would go ahead and deliver the babies. I was just 36 weeks at the time but I was so miserable and beyond ready to have my babies.

On our way to the hospital I requested one last stop at Merritt's (they are famous for their BLT's) for lunch in Chapel Hill, haha! We got to the hospital and before much time had passed they had run some blood work and the doctor said my liver function was abnormally high, indicating a type of preeclampsia more along the lines of HELLP syndrome. I was totally freaked out and so terrified to hear this--it was definitely a nightmare. I didn't really have any of the classic symptoms of preeclampsia except for the high blood pressure. The one thing I did have that was unexplained was a constant almost unquenchable thirst. I was drinking SO much liquid. I also had gestational diabetes but it was all very well controlled with diet and I rarely ever had a reading where it was above the normal range.

Shortly after learning this they started my induction. Of course, I had hoped not to be induced and on top of that disappointment I was not allowed to get up out of the hospital bed to move around AT ALL. This was because I was put on magnesium the whole time during my labor for the preeclampsia. I remember asking to get up multiple times and being told it was too risky. The night they induced me I don't remember much--I think I slept the whole night until waking up to my first pains in the morning. My husband was helping to massage my back with essential oils to ease the labor pain. We dimmed the lights and he brought soothing candles as well--such a sweetie! Sometime that morning my pain was getting pretty bad and because I couldn't perform any of the comfort measures to help ease the contractions (because I couldn't get out of bed), I asked for an epidural.

After the epidural my pain subsided (it was mostly really low pain, like a super painful bowel movement). However, after a while the pains came back and I kept having to get some sort of adjustment to my epidural. This would usually help for a little while but then the pain would come back. So, in the end my epidural really wasn't very effective. At one point I talked with the senior MFM doctor and he said if I wasn't completely dilated in a certain amount of time we would need to start to consider a C-section. I guess that was enough motivation for me because by the next time he checked me my dilation was complete! Time to push!! I did a few practice pushes and they said I was ready and transferred me to the OR. I am so thankful they let me labor rather than rushing to do a C-section. Even though I was very high risk, the doctor said it was still the safest way to deliver.

In the OR my labor pain was almost unbearable and my epidural wasn't working. I must have been in transition now that I look back. I remember saying something like "somebody is going to have to knock me out" because I didn't think I could stand the pain much longer. They must have given me something to help me focus and clam me down because I was able to push --I think it took around 45 minutes or so--and Baby A was born--a girl!! My poor husband was helping to hold one of my legs. After June was born I requested a break and some ice chips--I was so tired. But my contractions were still coming so eventually I had to push again. June was zipped up in BJ's scrubs doing skin to skin as I began to push out Baby B. This time it was SO much easier to push Baby B out as June had paved the way--another girl was born!! I remember being SO shocked that we had two girls. I was not expecting girls AT ALL. After the delivery the doctor was delivering the placenta and I started to hemorrhage--all of a sudden it became very scary but thankfully she was able to get the bleeding stopped. I still lost a lot of blood and they recommended I get a blood transfusion. I did not know I had hemorrhaged at all (I was talking through it all) until a couple of days later. My husband said it looked like a murder scene there was so much blood and that the expression on the doctor's face changed quickly from happy joy to serious concern until she was able to get it under control. Baby B (Georgia) was not breathing at first after being born but after massaging her she started breathing on her own and was fine. They were born at 7:18 and 7:45 PM. I felt so happy and proud that I had both my girls vaginally--the nurses told me that it was pretty rare.

June and Georgia a few hours or so after delivery (the night the girls were born)

After delivery I was wheeled back into my room and it was a whirlwind and confusing. I had not been able to hold my babies yet and then there were all these people in my room--family, nurses, etc. and they were all going crazy over the babies while I was starting to feel really faint and lightheaded. I found out they had given me a blood pressure medication because my blood pressure had shot up right after the birth and it made it come down too low to where I almost passed out. From then on in the hospital I was really out of it, scared, and a bit traumatized. Honestly the first time I remember getting to hold the babies wasn't until the next day when the lactation specialist came in and had me do skin to skin before I started nursing. It makes me really sad to think about how I missed out on that precious early bonding time. But we had so much family willing to hold the girls and most of the time I didn't feel up to it. The next couple of days were a blur--I was still in pain from a 2nd degree tear and also really tired and aloof. The babies had a touch of jaundice so they were taken to the nursery a few times for treatment. Other than that they were perfectly healthy at 4 lbs 11 oz (June) and 4 lbs 12 oz (Georgia)--for which we were so thankful!! My milk had not come in yet and for the next few days I "nursed" using donor milk and nipple shields. It look about a week or so for my milk to fully come in so that I could really get the hang of nursing. It was SO hard with two babies though, and there were many times I wanted to call it quits. We supplemented breastfeeding with formula so that the girls were nursed first and then given a bottle. The combination of both worked out really well for us and the girls did great--I was thrilled to have been able to nurse them for 8 months.

Sleeping together in the hospital--my beautiful tiny babies

My last "day" in the hospital I received a blood transfusion due to having lost quite a bit of blood after delivery. It was not necessary for me to have one but the doctors recommended it saying I would feel very weak for at least 6 weeks until my blood supply built back up. Since I would be caring for two babies and trying to breastfeed, I opted to get the blood. Before the transfusion my nurse should have changed my IV and she didn't (something the previous nurse had warned me needed to be done), so of course it failed and they had to stop the process, redo the IV, and precious blood was wasted. I was so mad!! You really have to keep on top of negligent nurses sometimes. Then we had another frustration--I was hoping to be able to stay another night because the girls were being kept one more night but the hospital (of course due to insurance) couldn't justify keeping me one more night (even though I had JUST had a blood transfusion!) So we were put in a "boarder" room with our babies which was super uncomfortable with no real bed for me to sleep in. Nevertheless, I was able to shower and dress and we went home the next day with our precious girls, June and Georgia.

Georgia doing skin-to-skin...I think this was very healing for me and definitely helped with bonding

The following day I went back to the doctor's office because I had a fever and despite numerous checks and tests the source was unknown.  Even after taking one dose of antibiotics, my fever continued to rise--all the way to between 103 and 104! It was really scary and we went straight back to the hospital. My anxiety level was through the roof. With everything I had already been through now I was having to deal with some sort of infection. I received good care and a very thorough check up but still they could not determine where the infection was coming from. My fever had broken by the time we made the decision to head back home instead of stay in the hospital. I'm so glad we did--my fever eventually came down and I was put on another different course of antibiotics at a later follow up appointment to make sure it was taken care of. My blood pressure had been slowly coming down since giving birth and my blood work levels continued to stabilize. It was a long rough road to recovery--mentally and physically--but after several weeks I finally got to where I was truly able to stop worrying and enjoy my babies. My husband and my mom were the most amazing help to me in those early weeks--and many other family members and friends were so supportive.

Holding June at home
We are so incredibly blessed with June and Georgia and I love being a mommy to them. Yes, the birth was very difficult and traumatic but it was so worth it :)  However, my experience definitely makes me think long and hard about wanting to have another or not. I'm sure a lot of my complications were due to the fact that I had twins, but even still the fear of having to go through all of it again can be very daunting. I know there are many of us out there that feel like this after having a child and it's good to think that I'm not alone.