If you read my last several posts (which are all months old by this point) you already know that I was feeling a little crunched for time trying to get ready for baby’s arrival. And him coming so early did mean that many items on my “to do” list never really got done. But I DID finish watching every episode of “Arrested Development” before my little man made his arrival … so there, I completed SOMETHING (oh, and I also completed my childbirth prep class in time … a class that I completely did not need all in the end – you’ll see).
Here’s the thing – while in utero my little man was a very active fetus. He was bopping and jumping and punching me constantly from the inside out. He had baby ADD for sure. And then, a few weeks before he was born, he did this massive belly flop inside of me and, from that point on, he just sort of laid there. Oh sure he’d jab at me now and then but, comparatively, he had really settled down. I thought maybe he was simply running out of room in there – perhaps his sleeping quarters were getting a bit too tight – but when I saw my doctor one morning 6 weeks before my due date I mentioned the baby’s reduced movements offhand. My doc was not concerned. But, just to ease my paranoid mind, he decided to hook me up to a non-stress test to check everything out. Basically the test just involved having a lap band wrapped around my belly for 30 minutes to monitor little man’s heart rate over an extended time. That’s it. Oh sure, every now and then a nurse would come in and place this item that I can only describe as a vibrator against my stomach (to see if that would get a rise out of the baby … which sort of seemed like cheating to me), but otherwise all I did was sit there.
But I failed the test. Little man’s heart rate inexplicably would drop for no good reason. Not a huge amount mind you, but enough that my doctor sent me to hospital for further examination.
The hospital triage staff regarded my arrival with annoyed skepticism. “Why did my doctor send you here?” they said time and time again. Oh sure, they hooked me up to heart rate monitors, completed ultrasound workups, everything they were asked to do, but they were clearly baffled by my presence. GAR and I passed the downtime between exams by making plans for the upcoming weekend. I emailed with work to keep them posted on my current whereabouts. A nurse named Cherry (for once I am using someone’s actual name on this blog … no need to protect the “innocent” in this case) would pop in every now and then decked out in scrubs with cherries on them and a necklace with cherries on it … you know, just in case you didn’t “get” the deep meaning of her name … and give us updates but that was it. The heart rate monitor beeped away, showing that little man’s heart rate was squarely in the “normal” range of 120-180 beats per minute.
Until suddenly the beeping of his heartbeat got slower … and slower … and soon it read 60 … and I panicked. I mean I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. I wanted some sort of alarms to signal … flashing lights and sirens to alert the medical staff. But no such thing happened. And when no one came running I hysterically cried out for GAR to run into the hall to find Cherry … or ANYONE who could help me.
Cherry came into the room making excuses for where she was and why she hadn’t been aware that anything was wrong. Then in ran about half a dozen other medical professionals who seemed just as freaked out as I was. Suddenly I was having an oxygen mask placed over my face, an IV needle put into my arm, and was being frantically briefed that they were going to need to cut the baby out of me immediately and that this involved many risks to myself and to little man … risks which were being rattled off to me at breakneck speed as I choked back tears. One of the nurses/doctors/random strangers in the room demanded that I remove my pants – a task that was nearly impossible to accomplish with an IV in my arm and a heart rate monitor still strapped around my midsection – so I told GAR to remove them for me … which he did in record speed … while Cherry jokingly remarked “Whoa, he’s done that before!” Ummm … Is now the right time to crack wise Cherry? Is it?
Then the strangest thing happened – I got fisted. A doctor stuck her entire hand up inside me to “stimulate the baby’s head.” It was awkward, but it worked – little man’s heart rate suddenly went back to normal. And then everyone just left the room. Alarm canceled I guess? Though I didn’t feel better at all.
We were left alone with Cherry who offered dubious explanations for what just happened. She told me not to be worried about the fact that my baby’s heart almost just stopped completely but told me they’d be keeping me overnight for observation just in case. I told her that I was still really freaked out and that I felt like something must be wrong any maybe we did need to get the baby out of me immediately. Cherry, in all her infinite wisdom, said this would be a bad idea because even though most babies born 6 weeks early are fine some still end up “riding the short bus.” EXCUSE ME? What?? Yes, THAT makes me feel soooo much better.
And then she left the room … again … And little man’s heart rate dropped down to 60 … again … And GAR had to go running for help … again …
And this time even being fisted didn’t do the trick. I was told I really was being rushed into surgery for reals this time. It was sort of a blur. They were pumping something in through my IV and wheeling me through the hospital in a flurry of commotion. I couldn’t see GAR anymore but I knew he was within earshot somewhere so I cried out to him to call my mom or my sister to let them know what was happening. Once in the operating room I was surrounded by tons of new doctors and surgeons who all kindly introduced themselves to me and, while I appreciated the niceties, I was so shaken I couldn’t really retain the information being thrown at me. I had been told that since it was an emergency c-section I was going to have to be put to sleep. But, thankfully, little man’s heart rate stabilized for long enough for them to put a spinal tap in my back so that I could stay awake and, equally importantly, GAR could be present for the surgery. The spinal tap worked quickly (although I was still acutely aware of the fact that I was pantless in a room full of strangers – hey I’m only human) and when they brought me a large pile of paperwork to sign (which I can only assume released the hospital of any liability should anything go wrong … not that I took the time to read any of it) my hands were like wobbly lead and I could barely manage a scribble for a signature (though they did insist I make the date legible – a nearly impossible feat given the amount of numbing medicine being pumped through my veins).
Finally GAR was beside me in scrubs and I was being cut open … not that I was aware of it in the slightest. I mean, I could feel some tugging – I wasn’t completely oblivious to the procedure – but there was no pain at all. And when they told me it was time to pull little man out I could feel it happen … sort of. It felt like a giant weight had literally been lifted off of me (probably because it had … literally). But I was still scared. This was all happening far too early. Would my son be too little? Too underdeveloped? Would he have to ride the short bus as Cherry had so eloquently stated? I listened as my little man cried for the first time and when they read off his weight – 5 pounds, 6.5 ounces – I sighed with relief that my preemie, at the very least, wasn’t totally malnourished. GAR peered over at him and told me what was happening (then he peered over and saw my sliced open stomach and innards all on display – a poor move on his part if I do say so myself) until finally they brought my little bundled up munchkin over to me and placed him on my chest. I couldn’t really move much but I touched his cheek and examined every teensy bit of his exposed flesh (which wasn’t much – just his cute little face). But I knew it was short lived – they told me that little man needed to go to the NICU – and soon he was wheeled away. I was stapled shut (I couldn’t feel it but I could hear the staple gun firing, which was a little jarring) and rolled off to recovery until I could feel my legs again (which took so long to happen that they repeatedly gave away hospital rooms that had been reserved for me).
During the many hours I spent in recovery all I wanted to do is see my little man some more. I sent GAR down to the NICU to take photos of him to show me on his phone, which was nice, but no replacement for actually being able to hold the little dude myself (something I wouldn’t really get to do for quite some time – a fact that caused me much grief in the days that followed his arrival). I also used my time in recovery to Google what had happened that caused little man’s early arrival. The OB who performed my c-section informed me afterwards that the reason for little man’s plummeting heartbeat was discovered when they removed the placenta and saw that it was detaching from my uterus. In my case the placenta had detached approximately 20%. I learned from my Googling that placental abruption (as it’s called) is, in fact, a very serious condition that results in death of the baby 24% of the time (and also has a rather high maternal death rate as well). While I didn’t have any of the risk factors that generally lead to a placental abruption (tobacco and/or cocaine use, a car accident or other jarring physical accident, diabetes, or a handful of other listed potential reasons) one thing was immediately clear – if things had gone differently … if I hadn’t been paranoid about little man moving around in my belly less than usual and if I hadn’t been sent to the hospital that day for a full workup … I very likely could have lost my baby (and as I’ve told others what happened to me I have, unfortunately, been told stories of babies who were not as lucky as my own).
Not that I meant to take this in such a morbid direction – sorry about that. But all this leads me to the truth … which is something that no one ever says – the day I had my son was NOT the happiest day of my life. Furthermore I think it’s bullshit when anyone says that (it ranks right up there with other lies that people spread … like how when you try on your wedding dress you’ll “just know” it’s the one, or that as a woman you really can “have it all” – the perfect career, the perfect family, the perfect size 2 waistline – without comprising a thing … all of which make us women feel like failures and causes us to lie through our teeth to swear we feel the same even when it’s not the case). Even if everything with little’s man birth had gone exactly as planned it would have still been a day full of pain and worry and cold tables and backless hospital gowns. But, in my case, it was a day of immense fear, panic, stress and countless gut-wrenching emotions. There is no doubt that my little man is the single greatest thing in my life and that nothing has ever brought me as much joy and wonder as he already has in his relatively short existence, but I assure you that EVERY SINGLE DAY of this past (nearly) one month has been far better than the actual day he was born.
I have so much more to share with you. Good times, more comical times that I can share with you with the proper amount of levity you expect from me … and yes, okay, more paranoid freak out moments as well. But, until then, I shall simply share with you some cuteness. Enjoy!
"Holding" little man in the operating room.
Family photo in little man's (still not entirely completed) nursery.
All grown up! (Well that's how I see him now - at 4 weeks old ... or negative 2 weeks, depending how you see it.)