Norah's Story

Friday, December 28, 2012

Four Weeks

Wow, it has been a long time since I posted an update on here! A lot of life has happened in the last 7 months. I guess I'll start at the beginning. I wanted to write down this story, so I would have the memories of my pregnancy and journey after.

We found out in August that we were expecting baby #3! We were thrilled as we had been wanting another little Cook and it wasn't happening as quickly as we thought it would based on our past history! I went to my first doctor's appointment, and the first thing my doctor noticed was a large cyst residing in my right ovary. Baby looked great with a strong little beating heart, but I couldn't help but have a sinking feeling about this cyst. She pointed out that all women get cysts and they are quite common in pregnant women. The type of cyst she speculated that I had is called a corpeus luteum cyst and actually releases progesterone and estrogen and is helpful to sustain the pregnancy during the first trimester. She assured us that she sees these come and go and we would hope that the cyst would disappear on its own in the next month or so.  At this point (I was between 6-7 weeks), the cyst was already 12-13 cm in diameter.

Fast forward 4 weeks....cyst is still there and is still large. As a precaution, I was sent to see an OB oncologist who also agreed that this was "probably" a pregnancy related cyst and said the chance of malignancy was very small. She did not recommend surgery at this point and just said that we would continue to watch it.

 Fast forward 4 MORE weeks....I am now between 15-16 weeks and have been having considerable pain from my cyst. I had a monthly appointment with Dr. C (my OB). Greg was unable to be at this appointment with me because he was out of town for work. While the baby looked great on the u/s, the cyst did not. It had not gotten bigger, but it had some new "growth" on it. Dr. C said she would consult with the OB oncologist and get back to me. She decided that the cyst must come out and she would be the one to take it out. We scheduled surgery for Monday, November 26. At this point, I am just so worried--worried about the cyst being cancerous, worried about having surgery, worried about the baby.

We saw the perinatologist and had a really in depth ultra sound. After our two little surprises in Maggie and Elliott, we decided that we just needed to know the sex of this baby. The u/s tech said with certainty that it was a GIRL! Maggie was beyond thrilled to hear this news...until she realized that meant she was going to have to share her room:) The perinatologist kept focusing on how PERFECT our baby girl was. He ensured us that the chances of losing her were way less than 10%. In my mind, I thought that seemed a bit high, but we had to trust the best judgement of the doctors that I had to have surgery to have this cyst removed--all agreed that I would not be able to endure a full term pregnancy with this size of cyst.

 It is now Monday, November 26. I go in to have the cyst removed. I was nervous, but the pre-op time went so fast that I felt like I was back in the operating room in no time. Dr. C told us that she would most probably be taking my right ovary and tube out as well. She didn't want to take time to try to save the ovary if it meant I would be under anesthesia longer. I woke up and noticed the clock said 2:30 and was in considerable pain from the vertical incision in my abdomen. I got some good pain meds and fell asleep for a bit.

I looked back up at the clock and it said 4:00, and I heard my nurse call up to the labor and delivery floor saying that I was ready to be moved up to my room. What seemed like mere minutes later, machines started to beep. I knew something wasn't right, I tried not to panic. Sandy, my nurse, got down and looked me in the eye and told me my blood pressure went down a bit and that they just wanted to monitor me a bit more before they moved me. She said not to worry--that they were going to take good care of me. I felt like I was in an out of body experience. More doctors and nurses came in my small recovery space. New IV's were being jammed into my other arm. New drugs were being pushed into my IV. Another nurse came down from L&D with a dopplar and could not find Norah's heart beat but attributed that to my incision down the middle of my belly. An OB from the floor was next with an u/s machine where I looked over and saw my sweet baby girl, still as can be but with a beating heart. Dr. C shows back up and is looking around my belly with the u/s for evidence of fluid but could see nothing. She kept saying she thought I was just really dehydrated and to push more fluids.

This is where things get a little fuzzy for me. I remember begging the nurse to go let Greg know what was going on. Little did I know that Dr. C made her way to the waiting room to inform Greg that she was very concerned for our baby. I was going in and out of consciousness. I remember Dr. C saying she was going to change back into her scrubs and take me back into surgery. Her and Greg were both yelling at me to stay awake...I am assuming this is right when the internal bleed started because the last thing I saw were the lights in the operating room as they quickly knocked me back out. When I woke up, I knew that our baby girl had not survived. No one was around me. No one was checking her heartbeat or looking at her with the ultra sound. The hardest thing was that I was so out of it, that I can't remember every detail, but when Greg came in, I knew that she was gone.

We had already dreamed of having a little girl named Norah. It was appropriate that this be her name with the middle name of Rose. Maggie decided on the middle name just minutes after we told her we were having a girl.

She was so very perfect--at only 18 weeks, she was beautiful. I just wish I could have held her longer and taken in every part of her. Dr. C even took her to the waiting room so Greg could see her and hold her right away. He was told that I would be in the ICU, but I did better than they expected. I was so out of it, that I could not even sit up to inspect every inch of her. But I knew that she was perfect even though my body had failed.

If it wasn't enough that we lost our sweet Norah, we didn't understand fully until the next day just how close I was to being lost as well. The tissue where Dr. C took off my ovary tore. A fluke, a crazy medical fluke. She said it was like a pressurized pipe burst. My hemoglobin went from a 10.7 to 3.0 in a matter of minutes (13-15 is normal). I am a MIRACLE. Every medical person I encountered had never seen life sustained with a hemoglobin a 3.0. There wasn't enough blood pumping in my body for Norah to survive.

 Every day I wake up and wonder if it was all a dream. Then I am jolted back to reality. I was saved but had to lose a precious, sweet life in return. I get to see Maggie and Elliott grow up and grow old with Greg, but I will never know Norah. I will never get to see her first smile or celebrate any of her firsts. I will never get to bond with her or snuggle with her in the middle of the night or take her to her first day of kindergarten. Even though she only lived 18 weeks in my belly, she was every bit of a God-created human being as my other two children.

A day will not go by that I won't ache for one more moment with her, one more kick in my belly, one more peek at her beautiful little "Cook" nose. But, I know I will SEE her again. God has given me another chance to make the most of this life on earth, but I know Norah is sitting in heaven at this moment looking down at us and telling us to be thankful, to remember God's blessings, and to be grateful. Even if we are hurting like we have never hurt before.

Norah saved my life--days later we learned that my cyst was not, in fact, a pregnancy related cyst.  It was a mucinous cyst adenoma--which if undetected can turn cancerous.  Had I not gotten pregnant, this cyst could have gone undetected for who knows how long.  So, even though we are so sad about losing her, we are so grateful God sent her to us!

No one should have to bury a child, to pick out a tiny little casket, to have a memorial service. We just did all these things, and although I can't see it right now, I know God will bless us over and over if we stay faithful and don't lose hope that we will see her again. He has blessed us with a wonderful, supportive family. He led us to a church ( where we have felt endless amounts of love and care--a true Christian community--exactly what God had intended. You can find the message from Norah's memorial here...

If you were to ask me how I was, I would say not great. I am sad, I cry every day, I long to have her back inside me. But I am alive and we will continue to remember and honor our beautiful Norah Rose Cook every day.  

"I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done." --Psalm 118:17


Greta said...

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your story and your faith. You are in my thoughts often!

Anonymous said...

My friend, I am glad Norah was your miracle (one of them anyway). You are so very brave and strong in your faith. Someday, when I grow up, I hope to be just like you! :)

Carl & Amy Johnson said...

elizabeth, thanks so much for sharing your story and Norah's. i am so, so, so sorry for your loss... thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing. praying for you... for the Lord's never ending, never giving up love and comfort to be so near to you these days/weeks/months. blessings, amy johnson

Kschrage said...

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your story. I'm weeping and praising God alongside you.

judahmom said...

Elizabeth, Norah is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.
Annie Kuhn