Monday, July 23, 2007

Live to Tell - Part One

"I'll see you in an hour!" my sister scoffed, as she climbed into my bed at 3:00 AM. It would be so "me" to decide I was in labor just because that afternoon my doctor had said I was two centimeters dilated and my parents were about to go to Florida. I was about three weeks from my due date, and I had been two centimeters for at least two weeks with Chloe. But my pelvis hurt, a deep unrelenting pain.

"Does not sound like labor", said my OB. "But come in anyway."

I maniacally began packing things like makeup and tanktops and stuff that I had promised myself would help me look cuter in photos than last time. And then I started shaking. And crying. "I can't leave Chloe!" I choked. My husband (A) soothed me. "She'll be fine," he said. It was the start of what I know will be a long road of feeling like I am abandoning her, choosing her brother first because he is more needy.

My teeth chattered. We went outside to hail a taxi. "Why is it so cold?" I asked. I was shivering in convulsions. It was 85 degrees.

Once we reached the hospital the shaking worsened. The labor and delivery ward was darkened and felt empty. I quivered in front of the nurse. "I think I am in labor," I huffed between breaths. She was unmoved. She lead us into a room and made me remove my clothes and don a robe, a particularly cruel request considering my state. I was hooked to monitors and A sat across from me, poised with his best "pretending I am ok" face. The machine beside me rang an alarm. I knew this noise, I had been in this room a few weeks ago when A made me come in because we thought my water had broken. "Paper Jam", the nurse had said, scribbling as much on the paper that curled from the mouth of the machine, in order to explain away the gaps in record. But this time, no one cared. The machine bleated, and I started to heave. "Need to throw up I said," as A grabbed a bucket. Orange gatorade flew from my mouth, my face scarlet in embarassment as I instructed A to hold my hair. I missed my friend Denise, the best hair holder in times of puke. I could tell A was afraid to tug too hard.

Vomiting provided minor relief. A tired and young looking blonde woman who called herself a doctor came in. She was a resident, the only one available. "I am going to examine you now," she said. She placed a gloved hand so far inside of me I thought I was going to faint. "Still 2-3 centimeters" she said as she snapped the gloves off. "What?!" It could not be. This felt like 10 centimeters. "And the monitor has no record of any contactions" she said wearily. "You are in very early labor". But how could this be? I was clearly not in any labor at all, still the same diagnostically as I had been earlier that day, before I went shoe shopping and ate fish sticks. Oh, how I regretted those fish sticks.

"I am telling you, something is wrong", I said. She looked unconcerned. "You can go home," she said. "Or you can stay. Something clearly brought you in here. But you could deliver in a matter of days or longer". And then she left. The vomiting continued, in between episodes I screamed, "I am going to die here." A stroked my arm, and it felt like pure acid burning my skin. I wet myself, and was hoping it was a surer sign of labor that my water had broken. A searched for the resident to be sure, but no one was to be found. In desperation, he called my doctor. He left a scathing message. When the resident appeared, she said my water had not broken. She put me on the phone with my doctor and I cried to him. "I am lying here in my own waste! My husband is cleaning my vomit because no one is bringing us new buckets. And I swear, there is something wrong!"

"The resident says you are fine", he said. "You are just as you were a few hours ago. There are no contractions. You are fine." He sounded confused but not at all alarmed. And he hung up.

If there is a moment in this story that saved my life, and my son's life, it is right now: I spiked a fever. Over 102 degrees. At this same time, Abs' gaze on the monitor turned to obvious concern. The resident assured me that she would tell my doctor about my fever. Suddenly, my OB appeared, which surprised me considering the fact that I knew he was home when we spoke. He looked at the screen, at the paper. I started mumbling about paper jams. "Is everything okay?" I asked. "No," he answered. "Why didn't you tell me about the fever and vomiting?" The fever just happened. Didn't I tell him about the vomiting? Time was no longer reliable, nor was a determination of which words were mine aloud and which had been screamed in my head.

The doctor looked ashen. And suddenly, everything moved at warp speed after langushing for hours. The wheeled me into a birthing room, where I mainly remember that after flushing the toilet, it splashed back in my face. I hoped it was a final insult. I lay in wait, and the doctor regarded me in a serious tone. "We need to take the baby out now, via C-Section. His heart rate is very fast (this is what A had seen on the monitor) and he is not responding well to whatever infection you may or may not have." Suddenly I had images of my literal bun in the oven, heating up. I imagined brain cells being fried. "We don't know what is causing your fever", he said, "but we need to take ever precaution." I started crying again. They began an IV of antibiotics, and the baby would receive one for days afterwards if all went well. IF.

"Will the baby be okay?" I asked for what felt like the 100th time. My OB would not answer. A was soothing me, telling me it would be okay. I am not sure if he said these words, but I felt them radiating from him. I called my brother, a doctor. "This is not out of the ordinary," he scoffed. I would later find out that he was worried, and have now mentally stored the fact that he is a damn good liar.

A resident accompanied my doctor to take me into the operating room. He looked about 21, with muscles protruding from his short sleeved scrubs and a rhinopastied nose. He was the first kind face I saw from the hospital staff. Nevertheless, I bullied him into giving me some assurance. "How rare is this?," I demanded. "Is there a page in your book that covers this?" I asked condecendingly. "It's not uncommon," he said, his voice a kind lilt. "Your baby will be fine." This resident had just started two weeks ago and clearly was unafraid of malpractice. Still, I clung to those words, as someone handed A some navy scrubs. I watched as he struggled to get the booties over his shoes. "No time," the nurse said. "Just come with us". A ran along side the gurney, and I stared at him, incredulous over how handsome I found him in this moment, skull cap and all. "You look so cute," I mumbled. They asked him to wait outside while they prepped me. This may have been when A finally let himself cry.

Through the doors, it looked like Grey's Anatomy amidst a really serious case. I am sure I remarked as much out loud. I still felt the need to be funny, to please. 15 (or 50) people scurried about, ripping open plastic bags of tools. I was suddenly keenly aware of being half naked. An anethesiologist who was the spitting image of the shrink on Law and Order SVU greeted me gently. He explained the spinal injection and all of the scary things I had already signed consent to. A nurse held me, my head in her cleavage. "Arch like a cat!" she ordered, and it is only now that I can envision a hissing cartoon cat that she was trying to conjure. A leadened stream coursed through me, and my feet became electric. They lay me down and suddenly my chest felt heavy. A heavy man was sitting on my chest, I was convinced. My arms were spread out like Jesus on the cross. "I am dying!" I screamed, for not the first time today. And again, my pleadings. "Guys, something isn't right." "It's normal", everyone chanted. I did not believe them, because I had watched TLC's A BABY STORY and the women always lay placidly behind the cloth curtain. Various doctors whispered in my ear, things about lungs and chest and heart. Someone must have put some sort of relaxant in my IV because the panic abated and I felt pretty damn swell. "Where's the husband?" someone called out. "Right here," A said, and he was magically beside me. I told him how much I loved him, how he was the most important thing in my life. That we have our Chloe, and that we would get through whatever he outcome was here. He tried to engage me in light talk about names for the baby. "Igor", I said. I could not bear to name a baby who might be pulled from me without life. Still, I relaxed. I heard the doctor talking to the resident, something about my ovaries. Were they on the table? I wondered. Then they announced the pressure that I had heard would precede the baby's arrival. No pain, just weirdness. A gurgling shriek. "It's a boy!" the doctor said. "Is he okay?" I asked A, who was permitted to gaze over the partition. "Yes," he said, without great confidence. "Not too little. Pale." The cries became more robust. "Apgar 9/9" someone announced. I knew as much to know that was a good thing. They handed him to A. "They would not do that if he was not okay..." a nurse above me said. He was beautiful. I know everyone says that, but I expected the baby to look war torn somehow. He was really just lovely. I did not 100% believe that everything could be okay, but in that moment, regarding father and son in equal states of lovliness, I let myself believe it.


At 3:17 PM PDT, Anonymous Leigh said...

Can't wait for part 2!!! So glad you are ok!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You make me want to write the story of Kate's birth, though I played the role of A there to Tracey's you.

Looking forward to meeting him!!!!


At 2:37 PM PDT, Anonymous Donna said...

Congratulations! I've been reading -- and enjoying -- your blog for a few months and have looking forward to news on the new baby! Thank you for sharing your stories.

At 11:21 PM PDT, Blogger Janya said...

I'm reading this thinking "she must be recounting a dream she had...this can't be real!"

It sounds like your baby is healthy and I hope you're ok, too. Sounds like an emergency c-section was not in your original plans. If you want to talk shop on c-sections, you know where to find me. I think we are part of some special camp now :)

Thinking of you and can't wait to hear more. When was he actually born?

I'd bake you some cookies if I could. Hope you and your new family are getting on well.


At 6:43 AM PDT, Anonymous gila said...

I'm crying... and I've already heard the story! SO grateful that you're here to write this entry. Been checking every day to see when you'd be up for it again - this is a good sign. :) xo

At 3:37 PM PDT, Blogger Jill said...

I am going to print this and show it to this little boy when he is sixteen and driving you crazy! (When i make Fran mad, she reminds me of how she woke up in the middle of her c-section with me and felt them pull me out of her. Works every time).

You are one, tough chick. I idolize you.

At 4:26 PM PDT, Blogger Amy said...

Donna and Janya, thanks so much. JVD: Aint nothin compared to Waltham Weston..or Cabrini!

At 5:23 PM PDT, Blogger beri said...

har- i am in full tears, i was so wrapped up in moving that i havent called or checked your blog till now. i love you and cant wait to meet and see photos of your amazing little boy. love-beri


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