Six years ago, I was in labor and delivery at the hospital. Severe preeclampsia had taken its deep hold on me and my baby. Slow drips of magnesium sulfate flowed through my I.V. into a vein in my hand. As a result, I felt unbelievably hot. I kept asking my husband, Charlie, to turn down the heat in my L&D room. I finally giggled to myself as I suddenly realized that he had his coat on. That giggle quickly faded, and I was annoyed with the next thing to "insult" my senses.
My tongue was coated with a thick goo, and my eyes were so dry that my eye lids stuck to the whites of my eyes as I would blink. My lips were cracked and bleeding, as well. I could not get enough ice chips, and it seemed like the ice chips were being rationed to me in dredgingly slow installments. I begged for more any chance I could get. After all, who decided they had a corner on the market of frickin ice chips? C'mon!
A pulse oximeter made my left index finger glow orange, and it seemed clumsily placed and excessively heavy. It was a sunny spring day except that the blinds in my room were closed tightly. I couldn't stand the light...not even the slightest twinge of light. If I recall correctly, Charlie found anything he could to block the light from my eyes. In fact, he had actually placed towels and those "lovely" mesh underwear (about which most women who've had a child recognize) in the spaces where the light was seeping through the blinds.
On the wall directly across from my bed was something that glowed bright red...a dot of some kind. I remember wondering what it was, but it seemed to burn my eyes when I peered at it so I chose to look away from it. Any light seemed to hurt me, not in a painful way, but in a way that sent electrical currents through the my body.
Because my respirations had been depressed by the magnesium sulfate, I wore a nasal cannula across my top lip to keep up my oxygen saturation. Two prongs of clear plastic tubing popped in and out of my nose as I shifted around, waiting in my bed for some word of what would happen next after 9 days of complete bedrest in the hospital. The cannula was driving me crazy, and the scent from the oxygen being administered to me was sickeningly sweet. It was yet another assault on my senses.
One good thing had happened though. Magnesium sulfate had reminded my kidneys how to function. The unfortunate part was that I was confined to bed because my blood pressure was shockingly high. This meant I could either have a catheter or I could use a bed pan. Guess which one I chose?
If you know me well, you'd know that I think catheters are an evil invention. In me, they produce searing "red hot poker" pain in a place that is indescribable. So, my nurse agreed to produce said bed pan upon my request. In about 20 minute intervals, an urge appeared. So, I'd shimy on and off of the bed pan. All because I didn't want that catheter. Did I tell you this was the good part? Hey, it was a pee-pee celebration when my kidneys kicked back in. Everybody was happy. :) It was like I was 2 again.
At this point, it was determined that I needed to have another ultrasound and biophysical profile (BPP) of the baby. So, I was wheeled into the Perinatal Center still in my bed. A pillow and blanket were strategically placed over my eyes to shield me from the light. I felt like Gizmo from the Gremlins movie. "Bright light! Bright light! I'm melting! I'm melting!" How do you like that mixed movie metaphor? :)
Charlie and I were in a small space where there was a monitor on the wall near the ceiling. Oozing gell was dripping on my stomach as the technician rolled the ultrasound wand around. Measurements were taken. Levels of amniotic fluid were checked. Pee was making my bladder feel like exploding. I could neither concentrate nor see anymore. The magnesium sulfate had produced large black blobs of blindness throughout most of my field of vision. Charlie seemed excited to see the baby and was mentioning things he could see. "Oh, there is the heart beating, and the spine..."
All in all, the results were bad. The baby had not grown at all in one week. The baby was estimated to weigh 1 pound, 11 ounces. This meant I needed to deliver the baby. My body was no longer providing a hospitable place to grow a baby. Overall, it was shutting down in any way it could. Baby and me were going to be separated today. You might be shocked to hear that I was relieved. I couldn't wait to start the preeclampsia healing process. I was tired, swollen, hot, dry, and mostly temporarily insane. Preeclampia challenges your sanity, and for awhile, it won.
As late afternoon approached, I noticed that my Braxton-Hicks contractions were suddenly happening a lot more and with some intensity. My belly would become hard as a brick and that urge to use the bed pan was strong. It was strange that I had no control over this muscular response inside me. In fact, it annoyed me, but I was so focused on everything else that was insulting my senses, that it never occured to me what was really going on. I was just waiting for my doctor to arrive so he could perform my c-section.
That was until...
I had a big contraction. My involuntary response to that pain was to clutch my stomach and moan. After the pain faded, I immediately said to Charlie, "Something is wrong. Something is wrong! I need help. We need help." I began to feel a squishy sensation between my legs. "Is that blood? Crap!" I was only 27 weeks along in my pregnancy. How could it be that I was going into labor? Or, is my placenta abrupting? No, it can't be. Those were just Braxton-Hicks contractions. You know the fake kind. Not the kind that make a baby be born. No way! No how!" All of this insanity was flooding my thought, but I knew I'd have a c-section again. There was no way I would go into labor with this baby. It was simply too risky to go through labor with a 27 week baby.
A team of professionals suddenly emerged in the room. Charlie had gotten help. Unfortunately for me, they had to turn the lights on. It was as if I was staring into an eclipse. The light seared into my retinas. Then the pain returned. It was another contraction. Dr. Schultz (who had delivered my oldest daughter, Grace) decided to see what was happening. It appeared I had bloody show and was 3 centimeters dialated.
"What? How could that happen?"
Dr. Schultz said, "One way or another, you were going to have this baby today Jennifer. We'll still take you into the OR. Your baby is stable, but we have to wait until the OR becomes available. Dr. Carlson wants to do your c-section. He'll be here soon. Hang in there." At that point, she left.
In the meantime, a neonatologist appeared next to my bed. He was sent to give me information about a baby being born at 27 weeks gestation. I remember studying him through my mag-vision. He had bright white hair, and a wide, round face. His light blue scrubs were on. He muttered some details about 75% chance of survival, and getting past the first 4 days, and then past the one week mark to see true survival for my precious baby. It was information that made my head spin, but those contractions kept disturbing my concentration. I hoped that Charlie would be able to process better than me. I'd ask him later.
Eventually, I found myself being transferred to a sitting position on the surgical table. Sitting wasn't that easy anymore. I hadn't sat up in many days. I felt whoozy and my head wouldn't stay upright. I bent down over the hump in my stomach and clutched my knees. A needle was inserted into my spinal fluid to numb me. I quickly laid down before I lost sensation. In what seemed like a split second, drapes appeared across my chest. My arms were stretched out on boards.
Charlie suddenly appeared next to my head in full surgical clothes. He held my left hand. It smelled like popcorn to me. It was really cauterization going on as part of my c-section.
"It's a girl!" came out from underneath Dr. Carlson's mask. I looked up and to my left side and saw the umbilical cord hanging down. It was slim but white. I didn't see the baby though. It was just a flash.
Charlie said, "It's a Meghan." All that I could hear was the silence. There was no baby shrieking. Not like Gracie had shrieked when she was born.
At this point, I began to mutter. "My baby, my baby, my baby." Tears streamed down my cheeks.
I wanted her back. It was too soon. This could not be happening. There was no crying. There was no crying. (Charlie later told me that Meghan did cry. She mewed like a tiny kitten.)
"Go see her!" I commanded Charlie. He was reluctant to do so. I couldn't see what was happening. He knew they were providing stimulation and oxygen by bagging her. He knew he'd be in the way. I didn't know though. I was suddenly completely dumb and in shock. I couldn't process.
After a few minutes, Charlie was asked to cut the rest of the umbilical cord away from Meghan's body. She was breathing. She was breathing. She was beautiful is what he said, but tiny.
Suddenly, I was jerked back into reality again. I felt like I was going to hurl. It felt like someone was standing on my stomach doing jumping jacks. It didn't hurt. It felt dull, but I was amazed that I could feel it. I started to wretch and wretch and wretch...all that came up was some ice chip residue.
My eyes darted around the room. It was really bright. Dr. Carlson told me that my placenta was stuck. It wouldn't come free which is why he was tugging on me so much. Um, more like standing on me doc!
Finally, the neonatologist appeared next to my head. Fortunately for me, he was standing on my left side. I could see just a sliver of "real vision" in my left eye. Through the slit, I could see that in his adult sized hand was my baby. My tiny, Meghan. My heart.
Her head was smaller than a tennis ball and popped out of his fist. Her eyes were slammed shut, and the skin on her forehead was wrinkled in 3 or 4 large wrinkles. She looked like one of those hairless cats, in a way. Fine blonde hair was all over her head and face, but it appeared that her the hair on her head was reddish and slightly curling. She seemed really rosey pink, almost peachy in color to me.
Meghan's tiny hand was resting between the neo's fingers, and he grasped her legs with his other hand. "Here she is Mom," came out of the neonatologist's mask. "Take a quick look and then we're off to the NICU." I touched her tiny toothpick sized fingers on one hand, and then she was gone inside his hands. She wasn't inside me any longer. It would take some getting used to.
Meghan is now 6. Years have passed since that day I just described. It is amazing to me that she has come so far since her 1 pound, 9.5 ounce birth at 27 weeks. Today, we celebrate Meghan's miraculous beginning. We celebrate that after 79 days, Meghan was able to join our family in our home, and grow into the beautiful miracle that God granted to us.