Welcome to the world (and SWDC), Andi Leigh West.
On September 15, 2023 I was blessed to welcome a beautiful baby girl into the world. She joined a family with a big brother, Jordan, and big sister, Olivia. I will spare you the gory details of the delivery however, I am going to share with you why my reentry into my business has been slow(er) than expected.
With my two other children I had emergency C-sections and I was hoping the third time around was going to be the charm. AKA I was looking to deliver naturally this time around. Due to wanting to have a VBAC I was seeing a specialist in Missoula, MT.
Now some of you might be wondering –
Why be so stubborn? Why not just allow her to join the world through the sun roof like your other children?
And that, my friends, is one question I have no desire to answer.
Andi’s delivery didn’t go as planned from the start (do any of them really?). First and foremost my pregnancy was high risk due to a number of factors – I was anemic, pre-eclamptic starting at week 16, and I was a trail of labor patient (aka VBAC). I was induced by way of foley balloon which was removed after 8 hours and soon after removal I was ready to push. (Also, a fun detail here is that I was experiencing her birth all natural, no pain medication was on board). After pushing for a few hours her delivery turned into being just as her siblings, she was low in the birth canal and her heart rate began dropping. With no epidural on board a forceps delivery was not ideal due to the pain and tearing it had the potential to cause. With the help of my medical team we decided a C-section was the best route forward.
Now, this wasn’t my first rodeo, quite literally. As soon as the C-section was taking longer than I was used to and they were pushing more medication to keep me numb I knew something was up. Not to mention, Andi sucked in fluid on her way out and was with the Nicu doctor for over 45 minutes on the other side of the room until she resumed normal breathing. At this point, I was trying not to panic.
To reduce panic it wasn’t until after the surgery that I was informed on the series of unfortunate events that took place during my C-section. My urinary artery was nicked during delivery due to how low Andi was in my birth canal (now remember, I am anemic) and I lost over a liter of blood on the table. Due to this factor after I was discharged from Missoula to come home to my kiddos (2 days post partum) I ended up being readmitted to the hospital in Helena merely one hour after arriving home because I was having an anemic attack and was vomiting profusely. Now, vomiting with a fresh C-section scar is something I wish upon no one. Literally, no one.
After some testing they found out my hemoglobin was a 6.8 (normal levels are over 12) and I was in need of a blood transfusion. In the E.R. I had my husband and Andi with me, but due to how much pain I was in and her desire to nurse every hour I ended up sending them home. At this point I did not yet have a stock of milk but we decided I would pump while at the hospital and my husband would use our emergency formula I had stocked in the cabinet.
Mom hack: always order your desired formula and have it on hand even if you plan to nurse. You never know when it might come in handy. HERE is my formula pick.
I was in the hospital for 2 days, alone, while my husband took care of a newborn and two toddlers. I had multiple CT scans to ensure I did not have internal bleeding, and was getting my bloodwork taken every 4 hours. I was beaten down and exhausted. Upon discharge I thought, well that was a new form of torture I do not ever want to experience again. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of my post partum complications.
A few weeks later I began having bladder incontinence. I didn’t panic because I knew this was a common thing and I was on baby #3, if you know what I mean. I was seeing my doctor in a few days and so I pushed it off. Well then the UTI symptoms began, then I was peeing straight blood. I got in to see urology the same day and they treated me for a UTI and then expressed that we would look into the incontinence after the infection cleared up. I wanted to deal with the incontinence NOW, I mean I was changing my diaper more frequently than my babies, but I didn’t disagree that the infection would need to be cleared before we could address the issues in a better way. Hindsight being 20/20 I wish I had pushed back a bit harder during all this. I even saw my OBGYN a few days later and although his midwife did a vaginal exam he did not, and I wish I would’ve asked him to because maybe we would have caught this all sooner. Coulda shoulda woulda, you know?
About 5 days into my antibiotic for the UTI I began having the chills and major flank pain. The sign of infection. I had a kidney infection back in college, and that was not a road I was looking to go down again. I gave it 12 hours to see if I had any change in symptoms, it only got worse. So after my husband got home from a dear friends wedding (which I obviously was unable to attend) I gave him the baby for the night, woke in the early hours of the morning completely miserable, and drove myself to the E.R. yet AGAIN. After updated imaging was completed not only was a kidney infection of concern, they believed I had a uterine abscess and would need surgery immediately. Due to the lack of resources here in Helena and my OBGYN being in Missoula they wanted me to head to the hospital there for surgery. Again, my husband remained with our kids and my FIL drove me over for what we believed to be an immediate surgery. Upon arriving in Missoula they completed updated CT imaging and we waited on a surgical plan. And THANK GOD we did because what they found out during the extended time and updated testing was something that needed a completely different surgical plan.
The final verdict:
During my C-section my right ureter got caught in the sutures. Meaning that it was completely closed off to the bladder. Causing urine to get backed up into my right kidney, further causing the formation of a fistula to my uterus. Further meaning I was leaking urine from my lady parts. Yep, that’s where the incontinence was coming in.
Now before your mind goes where many humans would, no this indeed is not means for medical malpractice, none of the CT scans with dye were showing this. It was not until he did a manual vaginal exam to further examine the believed abscess that this was found. So, ultimately, it was found by coincidence due to the further examination of a totally separate believed issue.
The next day I went in for my first procedure. A nephrostomy tube placement (aka: a catheter style tube in my right side/back to drain the excess fluid from my right kidney). This was placed so that the urine could drain out of my body and not by way of uterine fistula in order to allow my body to heal from the extreme infections (kidney and uterine). During this procedure they had hoped to place a stent that would allow my ureter to drain through the bladder again but this attempt was unsuccessful. I went in again 3 days later for another attempt that was also unsuccessful.
Due to the stent placement being unsuccessful which was because of the extreme damage to the ureter when the sutures were placed within it I now have the nephrostomy tube in my side for 3 months (until January) when the doctors can go back in and do a full repair. The repair surgery will require them to lift my bladder up and re-attach it to the healthy section of my ureter. The hope is that they can do this laparoscopically permitting the infection has cleared and they have full visibility. If this is not the case I will need to be opened up via my abdomen.
The tube in my side/back has been quite literally a pain in my a** and causes a lot of anxiety due to the fear of my day to day life pulling the tube out. You know, just being a business owner and mom of a newborn and two wild toddlers. Not to mention our household which houses two dogs and an outdoor cat. We quite literally have a zoo, which is no place for a gimp with a tube to be running around. However, we are making it work and I am getting more and more used to it by the day.
The reason I decided to share this story of Andi’s birth was to allow true insight as to why I am moving a bit slower in my life and business these days. The tube feels like a quite literal version of “the ol’ ball and chain” reference. Not to mention, I also have a newborn at home with me every day demanding to be fed and given attention, which I do not mind one bit. Andi has been the biggest blessing in this mess. And she made her entrance into this world one I will quite literally never forget the details of.
Grand entrances are somewhat of a West trait it seems.
So, I am slowly but surely entering back into CEO-life but you can expect a full GRAND entrance to happen in January of 2024 as my team and I have been curating W.E.S.T (which if you don’t know what this is be sure to check out our social channels and newsletter for more details) and I am so excited to officially bring it to life very, very soon!
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for following along. Owning a 7 figure business with 3 babies on my hips is sort of messy, but it makes for a good story and plenty of good learnings.
Cheers to unfiltered matriarchy. It’s going to be quite the wild ride, and I have a feeling this is just the beginning.
© 2023 studio west design co.
photos by Justine Jane Photography, meg witt of six figs & Milkshop Photography