Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Battle Won, Fight Over

You know, today I would have been 34 weeks, 3 days pregnant. Instead, I am awaiting FedEx to come and pick up the large box of medical equipment used to sustain my pregnancy for months while my newborn son snoozes quietly beside me. I've been wanting to write this for days and have been procrastinating because I know some tears will be involved.

There was nothing spectacular about the way May 13th started out. A normal, run-of-the-mill Thursday morning. My phone rang and it was my OB's nurse, calling to tell me that the earlier I could get to the hospital, the earlier they could start, and that my pre-op appointment was really more of a suggestion. With that in mind, J packed my bags in the car and we left. We waved goodbye to our neighbors as they headed to work. J stopped to get a drink at a gas station. Nothing out of the ordinary.

I walked to the Women's Outpatient Center at the hospital to check in, and was told to wait in the waiting room until they were ready for me. It was so bizarre. Having a baby by schedule. Bringing a life into the world in nice little schedule blocks.

Of course J's mom arrived sometime after anesthesia came to see me, my belly was shaved, and my IV was placed. She knew of the trouble we were having, but hasn't seen me since Christmas. I wondered if she could see on my face the months of struggle and hardship, etched into me like the tiny crinkle of crows' feet that are beginning to emerge. I think she could. She and J, along with E, were buzzing with excitement awaiting Zachary's arrival. But me? I was terrified. I was waiting there, staring at a clock, knowing that they were just waiting for the surgery case in one OR to be completed, and that was all. All of this time, all of the pain, the suffering, the tears...It all boiled down to that. What if he wasn't ready? What if the tests were wrong? What if something went wrong and I did not emerge on the other side to watch my boys grow? I could hold on. I could do it just a little longer. Maybe we should wait. We could wind backward the hands of the clock and I could survive one more day, one more week of monitoring and brethine boluses and contractions. Stop! Just. Wait.

But we weren't waiting. Before I knew it, I was watching J's and E's smiling faces disappear behind double doors that separate the cold sterile world of the OR. And I was sitting hunched over, leaning on a nurse I did not know as the anesthesiologist did my spinal. And I felt the tingle of numbness spreading up from my toes as a team of hands lay me down on the table. This was it. We joked as we waited for the doctors to come in. I remarked that the entire OB practice was going to have a party now that I would no longer be pregnant. And I felt the anesthetic working. How strange to be able to breathe, yet feel as if you are suffocating because you cannot feel your muscles in action. To need to cough and not be able to generate enough force. To only want J, and count down the seconds until they would let him back to the OR, to perch on a stool by my head. They asked if he would pass out, and I told them he would not, that we had done this before, to just keep him from taking pictures of my guts.

And then J was there. And I felt the tugging and pulling. I smelled the burn of my own flesh as they cauterized the bleeding parts of me. With E, I didn't recognize that smell. This time, my experience in medicine told me what it was. And the doctor was commenting on how big the uterus was. And J was saying "there he is". And the doctor said "Hello, Little Guy!".

And I heard it.

The cry that was more like a whimper than the rage that was E's first cry. Already so different from his brother. And my attention was directed to the place over the curtain where his little face appeared. Masses of black brown hair, wet and clumped. Face scrunched up. Mouth agape in a perfect O-shape, showing toothless gums and a quivering tongue as he tried to cry out the fluid that had sustained him all of this time. Zachary. 7 pounds, 4 ounces. 19.5 inches long.

J left my side to go and take pictures. I kept hearing the word "NICU" and "breathe". J was with him. This I knew. But I am the respiratory therapist. What was going on? The doctors were still working on me. So I asked the anesthesiologist to tell me what was going on with the baby. He just kept assuring me it would all be okay. Then Zachary's nurse came to me. She knows I am an RT there. And she tells me that he is acting like a 34-weeker. Nothing more than that. She knows that I know exactly what that means. It means he is sluggish. That, although his lungs are mature, his body isn't telling him to breathe often enough. He isn't maintaining his oxygen satuaration like we want. And I say the words that I never wanted to have to say.

"Don't wait for him to completely wear out on us. Send him before he needs to be intubated." And that was it. They finished me up. They took me to recovery. J kept showing up to show me pictures of my baby and give me updates. "Go!", I would tell him. "Be with Zachary. I'm fine."

Those pictures and the tiny glimpse of him in the OR were the only images I got of him for 5 hours. I went to recovery with empty arms. I was taken to my hospital room without him. The bassinet in the room remained empty. And my arms ached for him. The entire time, I thought to myself that it was my fault. If I would've held on...
But just like that, he was returned to me, free of the goo and mess of childbirth. Emerging from the burrito-like bundle of flannel blanket, the most beautiful sight I have seen since September 1, 2001. Shocks of chocolate-brown hair covering his tiny head that can fit in the palm of my hand. Tiny rosebud mouth. Smooth, flawless skin like velvet. He weighed more than E, but must be solid, because he is tiny in stature. He has the smallest hands and feet, the shortest legs, the most petite features. And he is perfect. Absoutely perfect.
Since then, I cannot put him down. The nurses in the hospital teased me the entire time, because each time one would come in my room, Zach would be in my arms. He stays there. How ironic that my body spent months trying to get rid of him, and now that I am free, I will not let him go. I spend every waking minute wanting to take care of his every need.

So it's over. The long, hard fight was won. This is the blog's 100th post, and it is the last. My Zachary is here. My family is complete. We are whole. I will re-emerge in the Blog World here, if you are interested.


  1. That is the most beautiful birth story. (I can't stop crying.) I admire your strength in enduring so much and coming so far. Thank you so much for sharing. I showed my husband the pictures. He's been hearing about your story from me, so he was glad to hear everything went well. I am so glad you finally get to hold Zach. I don't blame you for not wanting to let go.

    I look forward to reading the new blog!

  2. And I can't wait to hear your story! You have to keep me updated!