Monday, October 20, 4:07 PM
I only know the time because after I emerged from the bathroom, I looked at the clock. I wanted to be able to tell my nurses and Doctor when the bleeding began.
I texted my husband and said, “Babe, we’re going to be having a baby in the next 48 hours.”
“You know when you say that it always comes true.” was the response.
Josiah was born on Wednesday. When they pulled him out of my belly my OB said, “16:08“.
Yep, almost to the moment, it was 48 hours.
I also recognized that the mood I was in (very agitated, tired of bedresting, depressed, and ready for this to all be over with) was hormonally related, as was the low backache I had been experiencing. I attributed it to a side effect of bedrest, but it turns out it was a sign of early labor.
For those two days, I cramped nonstop and bled. At first it looked like “bloody show”, which can be a whole lotta nothing and go on for a couple of weeks, but then it picked up. It was difficult to sleep well through the cramping. Wednesday, Josiah was extremely active in my belly. Typically he was active at night and quiet during the day, but the increased activity felt a little frantic to me, so I was concerned.
My OB came Wednesday and after talking with me a moment said, “How soon can your husband get here? We need to deliver this baby.”
It was the right call.
While I badly wanted to avoid a C-section if at all possible, there were too many things against me. Baby had flipped again, and instead of head down he was butt down. The bleeding was an indication that my placenta was beginning to tear away from my uterine wall, a potentially life-threatening situation for both of us. I haven’t gotten the full report from my OB yet, but as he talked to the two med students who accompanied him during the delivery, it was clear to me that we would have been in a bad situation if we had waited.
Mom’s intuition strikes again.
While I’m recuperating well, better than I expected actually, the C-section itself was physically horrible for me. I felt everything, even though my epidural “took”. I moaned and growled when the pain felt overwhelming. I used the same deep breathing that helped me with my natural births. And I kept telling my husband to touch me when he forgot.
And speaking of epidural, it’s so interesting how scary is relative to the person, isn’t it? As the handsome young anesthesiologist prepped me, I began to shake.
I told him I was scared.
“Why?” was his reply.
“You do this every day, but I’ve never done this. I delivered a 10 pound baby without pain relief, in my bedroom. That wasn’t scary. But this is scary to me.”
I felt every stage of labor. I knew precisely when the baby was lifted out of my body. I knew when the OB was removing my placenta. I knew when he was suctioning out the fluids and blood from my uterus. And I knew when he stitched me up and began pushing on my fundus to make it contract. I did my low, guttaral, Indian war cry as the baby ascended (rather than descended) from my body. I cried out of fear and relief when he was born and I realized he was ALIVE.
I began to cry and shake uncontrollably when I heard him make those little mewling sounds newborn infants make. He was vocalizing. It wasn’t a cry, but it was a sign of life.
The anesthesiologist, who had taken to calling me “babe”, (which was oddly.. comforting), kept telling me to breathe. “I need you to breathe, babe. We’re not done. You’ve got to breathe, hon. Come on, take some breaths. It’ll be ok.”
I felt like Elliott in E.T. What happened to me happened to him, and vice versa. My baby was wrapped in a plastic bag to keep him warm and to avoid fluid loss. He was trying to breathe. And I needed to breathe too. Once he was stabilized by the team of people working on him, he was wrapped in a blanket and brought to me so we could meet. It was the last time I would see him for several hours. I told him how much we loved him, and that I would see him soon.
How anyone would elect for this procedure when it was not a medical necessity, is totally beyond me. It was not in any way “easier” or less painful than a vaginal delivery, and the entire thing was humiliating. I have never felt so vulnerable and powerless, from the shaving and catheterization, to the tying down of my arms perpendicular to my body (“I’m being crucified“, I said to my husband.), to the dozen or more people who had their faces and hands in parts of me that were unfamiliar even to my own husband (Hell-ooo, inside of my abdominal cavity and uterus!).
My first thought when I met the anesthesiologist (did I mention he was very handsome?) was, “Dear God, please don’t let this be the person who inserts the catheter!” He had not introduced himself yet, so I didn’t know if he was my OR nurse or what. Thankfully, that person was a sweet older lady. Still, as she washed and shaved my very ungroomed, pregnant-and-therefore-can’t-see-my-nether-regions-much-less-put-a-razor-to-the-area lady bits, I had to cover my face with my hands (you know, for modesty) and go to my happy place. I’m crying just remembering it, now.
I remember being thankful that I had showered, shaved my legs and put on makeup that afternoon.
Having to wait for someone to give you permission to see your own baby because you’re not allowed to get out of bed, the helpless feeling of having no feeling in your legs, watching someone measure your urine output with a plastic measuring bowl once the (#%^&!) catheter is removed, having a perfect stranger massage and squeeze your breasts and declare, “I can feel your milk in there, you’re just too stressed to let it down“, was no picnic.
It was several hours later before I was allowed to get up and see Josiah. And two days later, I got to hold him for the very first time. It was a surprise… they told us that it would be a week before we were allowed to hold him (hubby got to hold him for a moment at the birth), so I was thrilled.
His eyes are very puffy, and his face obscured by the CPAP machine, so it’s very difficult to tell what he looks like or how handsome he is. His hands and feet look like like his father’s. We both think he resembles Ruby the most (our 4 year old). Temperamentally, he is sweet but no wallflower! He has the most endearing habit with me: as soon as he hears my voice, he begins kicking and mewling for my attention and won’t settle again until I touch him. We have a little routine: I hold his left leg and right hand because those are the only parts of him that aren’t wired, tubed or otherwise inaccessible.
But often when I walk into the NICU, I immediately begin asking questions of his nurse to get an update since I saw him last, or I say hello to the mom of the baby in the isolette next to us, or chat with the quirky, tattooed and skull-ring wearing Respiratory Therapist.
Josiah gets jealous and lets me know in no uncertain terms that I am to acknowledge HIM first. I love it!
He also calms immediately for his daddy, who spent far more time with him his first day of life than I was allowed to. The first night, Josiah’s doctor was worried that he would need to be intubated and put on the ventilator (a step backwards in preemie land). He was getting the maximum amount of supplemental oxygen allowed.
But when my husband got there and began talking to him and touching him, they were able to turn down the oxygen. Again, and again, and again, until it was at the bare minimum. Josiah was (and still is) breathing room air, the same as you and I. He only needs the CPAP to keep his lungs inflated inbetween breaths so he doesn’t get exhausted. That was a remarkable experience for my husband, and far from being “helpless”, as he felt initially, he was empowered. He could be an active and useful participant in his son’s care, despite a lack of medical expertise.
Josiah has exceeded all expectations thus far. His caretakers say he acts and looks more like a 29 weeker, not the 27 weeker he is. He weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces at birth, which is considered big for his gestation! And big is still tiny. Even though I had looked at hundreds of images online of preemies, complete with size references (a dollar bill, a cell phone, a pen, etc) to try to make the mental comparison easier, it’s hard to comprehend until you see it with your own eyes.
As you can see, Josiah’s body isn’t much longer than my hand. I could slip my wedding ring around his hand. His diapers are smaller than a cell phone, and we have to fold them nearly in half to put them on him.
Have you ever eaten a Homewrecker burrito from Moe’s? It was longer than my son. He’s a little sweet potato with arms and legs.
They say we can begin kangaroo care with him in several days. I’m counting the minutes.
We know we have a long road ahead of us. He will likely be in the NICU until roughly his original due date of January 19. But he is ALIVE and that is all that matters to us now.
Everything else, we can handle.