This was not news to me. Due to my weird anatomy, the only way I can give birth is by C-section. What scared me was the fact that A) it would be so early; my first had been at 40 weeks, 2nd at 39...and B) the possibility that if the placenta had indeed attached itself to the uterine lining, it was very possible that I would start to bleed and in order to stop the bleeding (and not have me expire on the table) my doctor warned he may have to perform an emergency hysterectomy. So no more babies, ever. Period.
Google was not my friend during my pregnancy. In typical Charms fashion, all I could do was eat and worry about this baby. Compounding the medical concerns, were the other negative thoughts that plagued me: here I was, ready to give birth to this--our THIRD baby--which would put me in a category I never saw myself placed in: MOTHER of THREE UNDER FIVE. And all planned, for the most part. Was I insane? How was I possibly going to handle three kids, running amuck, on my own for days--even weeks-at a time? Also, I was getting fat again. The internet warned me about babies being born too early, and their lungs not being mature enough to work on their own. The double stroller I wanted cost an arm and a leg. I was sick. I was tired. I was still sticking myself with heparin needles to maintain the pregnancy while running to the toilet. The months dragged on and the future seemed hopeless; bleak.
We got to the hospital early-early; not even the sun was up yet. I knew that being the first of the day meant that I was the wild card, the "Let's-see-what-happens-here-we-might-have-to-work-quickly-if-something-goes-wrong- surgery." I was so nervous going in that I thought I would throw up. When the
Long story short--the surgery went beautifully--I didn't die (hooray) or bleed and our "premie" baby came out weighing 7 oz. Noone was worried. I saw Kay, kissed her head, they wheeled me back into the room and I relaxed, even saying a silent prayer of gratitude.
A little while later the nurse came in and said they were going to move Kay to the NICU where she could receive some help from a ventilator. She was having a little trouble breathing--which, we were assured--was 'very normal' for a 36 week baby.
She was so small and was hooked up to so many wires. I held her awkwardly, terrified to hurt her or pull one of the wires out of the wall. She was asleep. My pediatrician, my husband and the NICU nurse all assured me she would be fine. At this point, I was so tired of hearing that I could have screamed. They said I had to go back to bed while they prepared her for the ambulance ride down to the other hospital. They said I couldn't go with her. So I went back to my room and just sat staring, overcome with the reality of what was happening.
An hour later, this team of people I had never seen before wheeled a contraption that looked like something out of Star Wars into my room--a large plastic pill-jar that encapsulated my baby. They opened up a little round window that allowed me to touch her hand and I felt extremely awkward. Everyone was watching us, and while I was grateful they were allowing me to see her before she left, I wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to do. So I held her hand, said "Bye, Kay...see you soon" and then completely lost it--I started to cry. My pride wanted me to hold back the tears but I was so tired, it just didn't work. One of the ambulance drivers handed me a tiny white T-shirt that pictured a smiling cartoon helicopter that read "Life Flight" on it. I hated it on sight. It felt like it should have read; "I had a beautiful baby, but they took her away to another hospital and all I got WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT."
The following days were the darkest and longest of my life. I was trapped in the hospital "recovering" while Homer divided his time between the other two kids at home, me, and sweet Kay in the other NICU. He kept me informed with all the tests they were running, every move the nurses and doctors made, and --bless my sweet husband-- he was right on top of everything. That was the only thing that gave me peace was knowing that he was right there with her. And we were so blessed to have my family there to help watch the kids--I'm not sure what would have happened otherwise. The nurses told me that if I were able to walk around, I would be released sooner. So I refused the painkillers, which made me drowsy and sick, and instead survived on Motrin. I wandered around the halls, watching the other mothers interact with their happy babies. It fueled my misplaced feelings of anger and jealousy but at the same time, made me so motivated to get to Kay.
Two days later, I left and saw Kay in the NICU at the other hospital which was to be our home for the next 11 days. Again, we were blessed not to stay too long (there was a woman and baby who had been there 11 MONTHS!) but it did feel like forever. They tested her for meningitis by giving her a spinal tap--they had 2 cords coming from her belly button to feed her--all kinds of blood draws, etc..etc) At one point, we really thought we might lose her. Then, almost overnight, things started to turn around. When she came home, I sobbed with joy. That very day, while I sat nursing her behind a curtain in the NICU, one of the babies across the hallway died. 'He was just born too early', they said. It made me appreciate the miracle that my baby was with me---and at the same time--made me feel guilty that she had survived and would be going home, when other babies would not be.
I don't know how much sense this has all made and I am sure I have left lots of things out. But it's 2 am, and I just felt tonight, as I sang Kay to sleep and stared at her beautiful little face, that I needed to revisit some of those feelings. I don't ever want to take for granted what I have. Three healthy babies who encompass all of my hopes and dreams, and the pleasure of watching them learn and grow every day. Our pediatrician remarked at Kay's last check up that he was astounded at her turn around. "You'd never know she was a premie, or that she was so sick," was his remark.
I love all my children differently, and Kay is truly special. I've never had a baby respond to me the way she does. She falls asleep in my arms; laughs and coos when she simply hears my voice in passing. Her bright blue eyes (!) are unmistakably filled with love when I hold her. It feels like she knows me, like she chose me.
I truly am the luckiest.