Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Lucky Seven

Seven years ago today, my baby girl arrived and, like some kind of neonatal fairy godmother, turned me into a parent. It was and will always remain the most remarkable transformation I've gone through. It was and will always remain one of the two most profound days of my life.

Here's Em's birth story, as written just four days later to the moms on my birth-month list. It's not the most skilled writing I've ever done, but it still makes me cry every time I read it.

August 29, 1997:

I know many of you figured out I was in labor from my "show" question in the middle of the night on Sunday/Monday, and you were right...By 6 AM Monday morning, I was having contractions less than every five minutes apart and lasting for over a minute for at least an hour. Baroy had gotten up at 5:30 anyway, so I told him I wanted to call the hospital. They said to come in. We got there around 7:00, and by then the pain was getting intense. I definitely couldn't talk through them, and had to concentrate really hard to keep my breathing going. I get checked by the nurse (WOW, what a rough internal THAT was--turns out this was a wonderful nurse, but not the lightest of touches...) and was only at 2 cm. She admitted me, did 20 minutes of fetal monitoring and then told me I had to walk the halls for at least half an hour before I was allowed back in bed. Contractions were getting awful. I don't know for sure if I was experiencing true back labor, but I definitely had the feeling that my back was ripping open, while my front didn't feel so great either. During the contractions, I tried to keep walking, but mostly just hung myself around Baroy's neck and stumbled until it stopped.

Anyway, we eventually go back to the room, and I'm only 2.5 to 3 cm along, and I'm losing it, big time. It hurt so bad, I couldn't stay on top of my breathing, I just thought I was dying. And if this was "early" labor, what was transition going to be like? As it was, my contractions were off the chart, and coming every two minutes! I asked for help. They gave me Stadol. I wasn't fooled, though. I got really stoned, sure, but the pain was still there. It wasn't long after that that I asked if it was too early for an epidural. She said it was fine, that we'd get me through this. So I got an epidural, and some pitocin. I wanted to cry, I was so relieved to feel the pain slip away. There were so many people in my room (Baroy, my brother-in-law, our
friends W, G and E and eventually the baby's godfather, M) that it felt more like a party than a birth, but I was so sort of out of it, it didn't bother me.

Then the "fun" really started. They had broken my waters when they admitted me (or, actually, my doc did) and found a bit of meconium. So they were already slightly concerned. So they put a contraction monitor into me internally, and it looked like I wasn't having any contractions. So they upped the pitocin, and upped it, and upped it...until finally someone realized the monitor wasn't working. So they put in a new one and checked me, and--HEY--I was having contractions, in fact I was between five and six cm in just an hour and a half. Piece o' cake, I thought. Then at around 2 pm, the baby's heart rate dipped and everyone flipped out. My doc came over and checked me, and since it didn't happen again, said we should just keep going. By then I was at 6 cm, where I stayed...and stayed...and stayed. Four hours later, nothing more had happened, except that I had developed a pretty good fever, probably from the epidural, but of course they were going to have to treat me for it soon just in case it wasn't, and each contraction was pushing out thicker and thicker meconium. My doc came and sat by my bed, and I knew what was coming. She said that any one of my problems--failure to progress, thick meconium, fever, the earlier deceleration of the baby's heart--wouldn't worry her, but she said there was little chance with this pattern that I wasn't going to wind up with a c-section, so shouldn't we just get it going? I got teary, but I said yes. I knew it was coming, like I said. And so, at 7:00, shaved and prepped and filled with epidural and morphine (given to me by the sweetest elderly anesthesiologist ever, who kept kissing my forehead and telling me what a good mother I was going to be), I was on the operating table. Baroy held my hand, and watched the entire operation. I never figured him for doing that, but he was fascinated. I felt everything...very weird. But no pain.

When they got the baby's head out, they stopped to suction some meconium. Baroy was beside himself with how bizarre it was to be looking at his wife's belly with his kid's head sticking out of it!. Then, at 7:15 pm on August 25, they pulled the rest of her out, and rushed her over to a table where a neonatologist from a nearby hospital was waiting (my hospital only cares for "well" babies, so they had called over to another hospital to have a specialist attend the birth when they saw the meconium). I hear someone say it's a girl; Baroy says they actually said "it's a poopy girl!" I didn't get to see her, and because they were aspirating her, I couldn't even hear her cry. It was a tense few minutes (turns out, they were bagging her so that she would get air while they aspirated, and that's why she couldn't cry--too many tubes in her throat, poor thing). Anyway, finally I hear this wonderful, snuffly little cry coming, and they wrap her up and bring her over to me to look for just a second. She was pink and gorgeous and chubby and I just started crying. Baroy was crying. And of course, Em was crying. So it was an emotional meeting. But then they quickly took her away for some oxygen.

They finally wheel me into recovery, and in comes the neonatologist to tell me that she had indeed swallowed a lot of the stuff, and that snuffly cry, while cute, wasn't a really good thing, since it indicated she still had some in her lungs. So they were going to transport her to the NICU over at their hospital. I got a little emotional, and insisted I had to see her, because I never even got to touch her. They promised they'd bring her to me before she left. So a few minutes later, here comes my daughter, in an incubator box with a huge oxygen mask over her tiny face, and all these medical people around her. And they open one of the portholes and push me next to her, and I get to run one hand over her body while she stares at me. Then they hand me a bunch of Polaroids they took, and off they go. I make Baroy follow them, to make sure she gets there OK and check up on her. So I'm all alone with my nurse and my Polaroids, and these ghoulish thoughts in which I take a nice thing (that they took pictures for me) and make it into a horrible thing (that they only do this so the mother has something to remember her baby by). Needless to say, I didn't have a good night.

Well, this is realy getting too long, so I'll condense the rest. My doc says the cause of all of this was probably the bizarre way in which she'd managed to get her umbilical cord wrapped around her ankle in a tight figure eight--that would have been the stress that would have caused her to poop in utero, and would also explain the failure to progress (she couldn't go down the birth canal any farther, because she was shackled to my placenta by her ankle, just hanging there).

For now, Em is still in that other hospital's NICU, though she's by far the biggest baby there (she weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces at birth, and there are preemies in this room that are under a pound). They're giving her prophylactic antiobiotics to make sure she doesn't develop pneumonia from the meconium she swallowed. She was on oxygen until yesterday, when they
took out the nasal canula (YAY). They're still a little worried about her respiration rate, which is pretty fast, because she has an air bubble in her chest which got pushed through her lungs during the aspiration (I think) and while it'll probably resolve itself, they don't want it to wander back over to her lungs, where it could cause part of it to collapse. They're going to do an x-ray today to see how all that is resolving itself. If all goes well, she could--please, please, please--be home with us by Monday.

For what it's worth, she ended up doing us one better: She was home by Sunday, after six days in the NICU. At the time, those days were neverending; now, they're a memory that I only bring out of storage once a year or so. At the time, I thought the world was ending; now, I know that it was only just beginning.

Happy birthday, my Emmy-dem. And thank you.

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