Did I mention I’ve been in the hospital for a week? There’s a lot of TLC up in this joint. I skip the baby shows and the fat shows,but man, that Buddy is one genius of a food engineer. If I hadn’t been stuck here, watching several hours a day of cake construction would totally have me in line for a spot on “I’m so Ginormous I Get Molded” or whatever it’s called.
Last I left you, I was miserably languishing in the limbo of bedrest. As usual, my blog timing is impeccable: two days after I write a plea to the prenatal gods that I don’t have another NICU baby, I land in the hospital with a condition all but guaranteeing just that. Twelve hours after posting that after five days, I’m totally over bedrest, I started having contractions. And developed chills. And then the inevitable fever, following by the inevitable more contractions. By 8 AM Monday morning, my fever had spiked to 102.6, and the nurses were calling in the prenatal specialists to throw around words like “infection” and “C-section” and “affected preemie.”
The weird thing? I didn’t cry. Not once. I’d spent four days on an emotional vomit comet, riding a sine wave of crying and wan smiles. I could see in the nurses’ and doctors’ eyes that they saw my spiral. The few times that I got up to use the bathroom, the Crypt Keeper looked back at me in the mirror: sunken eyes, lank hair, parchment skin. OnlyI didn’t even have the Crypt Keeper’s morbid delight going for me. Just resignation.
So by the time the doctor said “We’re looking at 9 AM for prep,” I picked up the phone and called my husband, and an enormous weight lifted from my heart. The baby had likely made it through her lung booster safely. With any luck they’d get her out before the infection reached her; she’d spend a few weeks in the NICU as a “feed-and-grow.” And honestly,three weeks with a healthy NICU baby is worth one day in the NICU with a sick baby, and I’d already been there and done that. Rather than fighting for her life, this baby would just be a little hothouse flower.
I know I’ll get comments arguing against this next statement, but another thing I realized: I’m not as tough as I thought. I spent a grand total of six nights on hospital bedrest, and I was emotionally spent. One of the OBs on staff commiserated with me, and said she’d been on hospital bedrest for ten weeks. Let me say that again: ten weeks. Inconceivable. But then she made me feel marginally better: “I cried a lot.”
Anyway, back to the grand events: after some fast and furious emails and phone calls, a friend hopped a train downtown to watch Eliza, and another volunteered to relieve him at 3PM. (Thank you, again, to Melinda, Bailey and Maggie: I couldn’t mail-order better friends than you.) David arrived at the hospital just as I was getting up to head to the OR, and as he dressed in scrubs, I headed to my first real operating room. Sitting on the table, waiting for the anesthesiologist to numb me, I looked up and saw the big, round,multi-bulbed lights I’d seen so many times before: “Just like on TV,” I said. And honestly, it was a little like being in a TV show. I’d never read much about getting C-sections,but let me tell you: it is surreal. I’ll explain why, and parental discretion is advised.
You’re numb from the chest down, which is to say, you can’t feel pain or temperature, but you can feel pressure. Once you’re pretty well numbed, the anesthesiologist asks you to spread your arms wide and lay them on extenders at shoulder height. (“No symbolism here, I promise,” he said.) A blue sheet is dropped at neck level so you can’t see a thing, and then your husband, who has asked that he not see any slicing or dicing of his wife’s abdomen, is led in to hold your hand. The anesthesiologist–who you’re beginning to realize is hired as much for his ability to distract the patient as much as numb her–asks what Pandora channel you’d like to hear.”Got any Beatles?” you say, and then immediately regret the decision, because you realize that whatever songs that play will be indelibly associated with your surgery.
“Octopus’ Garden” starts up, followed by “I Got My Mind Set On You.” And you become aware of activity below the sheet. A bit of tugging. Some pushing. Some pulling. And this goes on for some time, as you chat with your husband and anesthesiologist. The sensation is not uncomfortable so much as unfamiliar. Your mind searches for associations: it’s like squeezing into a really tight pair of jeans. Like lacing into a corset. Like being laced up as a Thanksgiving turkey.
Within fifteen minutes, a doctor Below the Sheet calls out,”That’s a good-sized baby!” and, wonder of wonders, “The Joker” kicks on through Pandora. (I’ve spent half a lifetime indulging Steve Miller as a relic of my southwestern Pennsylvania upbringing, and now he is officially the soundtrack of my second daughter’s birth.) “Is there a baby?” you ask. “There IS a baby!” the neonatologist answers, and then the baby herself answers, with great gusto. And you cry a little.
I’d like to say that’s the end of it, but it isn’t. My husband’s first reaction was, “Wow, she looks a LOT better than Eliza!” which elicited laughter and recriminations from everyone Below the Sheet. “Comparing them already!” But when I saw her myself later, I understood his reaction: she’s pink. Bright, healthy pink. And at the time, she was also royally pissed off and making no secret of it. Eliza, at birth, was covered in meconium, and her skin was a grayish-green; she also didn’t start crying with gusto until she’d been in the NICU for a few days. Baby #2, though, scored 8 and 9 on the Apgar, scores that made the doctors gasp with delight. David followed the neonatalogists out to view the big weigh-in, and that’s when the reality TV show I’d been watching shifted to actual reality.
They had to vacuum me out (by the sound of it, anyway) and stitch me up, so I had still had a good 20 minutes on my back. But my fever chose exactly that moment to spike, and it exhibited itself in major chills, which were focused in the only body parts that could move: my arms, shoulders and neck. And let me tell you: that hurts. The anesthesiologist pilled on some warm blankets and the surgical team did their best to move it along, but that twenty minutes lasted far too long for my liking. But they rolled me into recovery and began piling on more blankets… and more… and a giant inflatable blanket that pushed through hot air… and still the shuddering barely slowed. When my nurse, Chris (who was my favorite of the bedrest nurses, which is something like saying you have a favorite patron saint) leaned in and said, “Would you like some Demerol?” I sputtered, “Fffff ittttt hu-hu-helpssss…”which, roughly translated, means, “I will do smack if it stops the shaking, thank you.”
It took two hits to do the trick, but all at once, my body slowed down and I felt really, really good. Like I was lying on a feather bed in antigravity bowl of warm Jell-O. David, who had rejoined me to tell me the baby weighed 4 lbs, 3oz, and crack jokes with the nurse, left to organize my new room and share the news with my sister. Which was just fine, as I don’t think I was much company at that point.
And that’s pretty much my baby story. I’ve been spiking fevers since, going through cycles of shivershake/overheat/profuse sweating. But more time is passing between the cycles, and they have me pumped full of antibiotics to kill whatever infection’s been brewing in my system. (The story there is that because the bag was poking out of my cervix for a week, it picked up some native bacteria and developed an infection.)
The happy ending, of course, is that I held my new daughter today. She’s small, but not as insubstantial as I thought she’d be. Her hands are tiny and pink and shiny, like new skin that grows over a wound. She has a good cover of hair–baby bird hair, I call it, because it’s got that slightly fuzzy, feathery look. I’m betting that in three more weeks it’ll be as thick and dark as her sister’s was. And she looks quite a bit like her sister, a revelation that touches me in a way I didn’t expect: they’re already closer to each other than they are to us. I hope with all my heart that that doesn’t change.
P.S. Name and pictures to come.
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