My oldest son just turned 12 and he asked about when he was born. We pulled out the scrapbooks and we were cracking up telling stories. Remembering Adam's birth does not bring about the same feelings. The actual birth of Adam was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I was terrified.
It was Matthew's 7th birthday and I had plans to go to get my routine ultrasound (the 20 week ultrasound, which I was actually having in week 22). In the backseat of the car, I had the sprinkle-covered cupcakes, which I was going to drop off at the founding father elementary school after the ultrasound and then head to work, all before 11:30. Phew.
During the ultrasound, I was chatty with the technician and she was friendly enough, but at a certain point, she told me that the doctor should be in soon and she left. I, of course, am instantly scared and thought how my follow up with my doctor wasn’t today. The doctor came in, but it wasn’t my doctor and my anxiety increased.
I asked him what was wrong and he replied, "We will talk in a few". I didn’t know what that meant. A few? A few what? He then said to me, “It appears as though there are problems with the growth of the fetus. You are not leaving this hospital until the baby is born". My only reply was, "Are you sure, I mean it's my son's birthday I'm not due until the end of August and I have cupcakes in the car". I remember this. I remember asking him if he was sure, ridiculous now. It's funny, how you respond to news. I mean it's comical now that I was so concerned about those damn cupcakes.
The next 24 hours was a blur of information. I was told that I had IUGR. This is intrauterine growth restriction. This means that there is a poor growth of the baby, and that the baby weighs less than other babies at the same gestational age. Every week of gestation and every pound makes a huge difference, decreasing the chances of problems dramatically. The baby was not getting enough oxygen and nutrition because the blood flow through my placenta was intermittent. This was not my fault (I have to sometimes remind myself of this) There was no reason for this and later my placenta was sent to a placenta pathologist, I had no idea there were such people (eww gross) and again told, no reason discovered.
My baby was starving.
In the next 24 hours or so I had visitors. Neonatologists. I was told that the baby had small femur bones and a few other indicators that he might have Down's Syndrome. I was told statistics that a baby born this weight, with IUGR, this early, increases chances for everything. I mean everything. It's not just that he was going to be premature, but he also had this starvation thing. He had so many chances for so many things. They went over blindness, lung issues, brain bleeds and on and on. The bottom line and number they gave us, was that he had an 85% morbidity rate. We knew something was going to happen to this baby, He wasn’t going to be healthy and “normal”. No one could tell us what was going to be “wrong” with him, but it was going to be something- we just didn’t know what he was going to get.
The ob/gyn explained to me that it was advisable that I never have another baby. Once they deliver this baby, via c-section. The uterus would be cut vertically. This is because I was not far along at all, so the uterus wasn't stretched. I would have a vertical uterine incision that would leave scar tissue. Another pregnancy might result in the placenta possibly attaching to this scar tissue (good chance) and that would force an early delivery (another preemie see above possible scenarios), careful monitoring, and a possible ruptured uterus and a potential hysterectomy for me.
And so it was.
This was the last baby I should give birth to and something will be wrong.
In the hospital I now had a team of specialists, high risk doctors called maternal fetal medicine expert something. (whom I humorously referred to as the MFs). Also, one of these MFs was the father of a former student of mine. Slightly awkward. They visited me each day, along with their medical students, residents and more. Each morning an ultrasound technician would come in and they would do an ultrasound. I also had an ultrasound in the afternoon. I was pretty hooked up to stuff and was told to stay on my left side as much as possible. I was in the hospital this way for 12 days. On the morning of May 16th, the technician came in and was doing the ultrasound and noticed that things were not good. Buttons were pressed, nurses were called and we were off.
My regular ob/gyn was there in a flash and was jogging next to me along with the nurses, and we went straight into a delivery mode. I was alone and the nurse held my hand and said she wouldn’t leave. Someone called Philip, I suppose, because they said to me that he was on the way. The room was pretty crowded, I remember seeing a lot of doctors. They needed doctors and nurses for me and neonatologists and nurses for the baby, anesthesiologists and more. I remember feeling crowded. It was a C-section. It was tense. A nurse never left my side. It was stressful. Adam was taken away. Phil went with the baby. I was left alone to be stitched up, the nurse offered a few words of comfort. There was no laughter, no joy in the room. I was terrified. I knew he was alive, but that was all. I couldn’t really talk, tears rolled down softly. I was brought to a recovery area and my mother and Phil were there and I asked them if he was still alive. He was. They wheeled me to see him. I couldn’t touch him. He was hooked up and plugged in and his bed was covered with saran wrap. He weighed just over 1 pound (665 grams) and was born 16 weeks early.
In remembering this day of Adam’s birth I am reminded of the amazing abilities of all the nurses and doctors that day. After recovery I was brought to my room where the roommate had given birth to a healthy baby and the baby was there. I really couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t speak. I just was crying, but quietly crying so the woman and her family behind the curtain couldn’t hear me. I didn’t want them to ask me anything. A nurse came in and was horrified that I was placed in this room. She didn’t need me to explain, to speak. She understood and instantly made arrangements and moved me.
Whenever I remember this day and all it brought, it is easy to immediately return to that place of sadness and fear and terror. I couldn’t imagine at that moment what the next five years would bring.
If only I could go back in time and speak to myself. The future me just reaches over the curtain and speaks to me, as I lie trying to cry quietly into a pillow alone in a hospital bed, I would tell that woman, I would tell me, “There will be worse days, but it’s all going to be fine. This baby, Adam Marcus, is going to make you laugh. This child will live. He does have some imperfections, but he is going to live and you and Phil are going to be stronger than you think is even possible”
“He is going to take Karate, and ride a bike. He will sign “cheese” and later make a sign for his door saying do not enter. He will argue with his brother, throw a ball and dance. He will learn the alphabet, blow kisses, make machine gun noises, build a sand castle. He will throw vomit-inducing tantrums and tell you he wants to be a penguin when he grows up. "
He will turn 5.