You can read Part II here.
You can read Part III here.
You can read Part IV here.
A year ago today I gave birth to the Peanut. Such a simple sentence, but it encompasses so much more. I will apologize in advance for the perhaps scattered nature of this entry. Things happened so quickly that it feels that I have small vignettes of memory about the day.
When I left the story off it was midnight and we had just arrived at the second hospital of the evening by ambulance. The team there had been alerted to our arrival, and were completely prepared as soon as I was wheeled in the door. It was truly a scene out of ER. I was surrounded by nurses who were all madly trading information and summing up the situation. The doctor on call was there to meet me. Very suddenly it all became real - I was having this baby, and I was having her that night. According to the doctor I would be having the baby well before the morning, and she was very clear that it was a good possibility that I would be having the Peanut by cesarean. (I should point out that this doctor was a lovely woman who actually spent time speaking with me and letting me know what was going on throughout the labour - a novel concept!)
The nurse who came with us for the transfer leaned over me to say goodbye. She was an older Filipino woman. She hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear. "God bless," she said. "The lord will look over you and your little one."
By the time I reached the hospital my contractions were now a minute apart and were quite strong. I had started to run a fever and the doctor was pretty sure that I had an infection. The Peanut was starting to show some signs of distress. Oh, and I had developed a wicked case of motion sickness while traveling in the ambulance. I was pretty much a mess.
Now, a few notes about the efficiency of the Canadian health care system:
1) Although I had filled out all the registration paperwork at the other hospital, and had a nurse bring me from that hospital, I quickly found out that I had to complete all the paperwork all over again. So, in the midst of all of the above, I found myself answering the same questions all over again. When was the date of your last menstrual period? Your expected due date? If it's a boy, will you have it circumcised. And on it went. The kicker was when they handed me a pamphlet, mid-contraction, and asked me to read it and the sign the consent for any necessary blood transfusions. Yes, I had done this paperwork before. Yes, I had transferred here with a nurse who, ostensibly, had all my paperwork. But in the middle of labour I had to do this all over again.
2) The doctor ordered Pitocin to further speed up the already incredibly speedy labour, and my IV saline was running out. This was where I finally found out how inefficient our health care system can be. When they went to start the new bag and add the Pitocin they found that the hospital I had been at used a different IV system that could not be coupled with the IV bags or drips in the new hospital. Two hospitals, less than 100 km apart, and they did not use the same IV systems. They were going to have to pull the freshly started IV from early that evening and begin a new on on my other hand (which had just had another IV pulled from it that morning). Fun times! Now, back to the labour...
They also needed to do a blood gas test, which didn't go well. I had a nurses madly pumping my arm and squeezing it get every drop of blood. The whole time I kept apologizing to the room full of nurses - apologizing for the inability to get blood from my artery, apologizing for the monitor which kept losing the Peanut's heartbeat, and apologizing for throwing up and missing the basin, requiring a gown change.
Other than my apologies though, I was a pretty quiet patient. I never knew quite what to expect when I went into labour. When I'm sick, I'm normally the type to drag myself off and lick my wounds in privacy, but labour is a whole other ball of wax. Turns out that I'm not much different during labour. I didn't scream and yell at Mr Babbler, didn't grab his hand and break his fingers during contractions, didn't make demands of my nurses. I just worked my way through each (incredibly fast now, with the Pitocin) contraction. And I apologized for all the inconvenience. The only moment where I truly became rattled was when I realized my father-in-law, who had followed us to the hospital, was in my room. My father-in-law was in my room, the room where I was, with hoo-ha exposed, groaning through contractions, my father-in-law! He had gotten himself trapped in the nurses hallway, so they just sent him back out to the correct hallway through my room. I think he was as horrified as I was. To this day, we have never mentioned that moment to one another. If we just keep ignoring it, it will be like it never happened, right? Right?!
Finally, more than an hour after I arrived, a nurse uttered those magic words. "Do you have a pain plan?" I said yes, that in this case, I would be taking the epidural please. An anesthesiologist was called in, and after another half hour or so, I finally had some relief.
From that point on I had a nurse in the room constantly, monitoring both me and the Peanut. For the next couple of hours she chatted with us, while her eyes remained on the monitor and she periodically made notes on her clipboard. She talked with us about her years as an obstetrical nurse, the birth classes she ran, and her marriage. Most importantly, she prepared us for what would happen as soon as the baby was born. She explained about all the people who would be in the room with us, what their roles were and what they would do. She told us how our baby would likely look, and where they would take her. She kept talking, simultaneously easing our fears about what was going to happen and taking our mind off of the imminent delivery.
Finally, around 4:30 in the morning, she started to look more concerned during each contraction. She called out in the hallway that it was time to deliver the baby, this baby, now. The Peanut's heartbeat had started to decrease dramatically during contractions, disappearing entirely. They were concerned that the infection that was causing my fever was starting to get out of control. She was in distress, and the Peanut was being born now, one way or another.
I was wheeled into the high-risk delivery room where a team of nurses awaited me. The neonatologist and the NICU nurse came in, as did the respiratory therapist. The room was busy with people. An incubator was against the side of the room, a resuscitation table against another wall, around which waited the nenatologist, NICU nurse and the respiratory therapist. A nurse prepared my bed and then told me that on my next contraction I could go ahead and try to push. Two pushes later they were calling for the doctor. She walked in and pulled on her gloves as I was pushing again. She reached the table, told me to keep pushing and then told me I could stop. She was out. Just like that, at 4:59 in the morning, the Peanut was born.
She didn't cry right away, and I could feel them turning her, checking her. Then, a quiet cry, a mewl really. She was breathing. Briefly she was laid on my stomach as they cut the cord, and I finally started crying. We had done it, Mr Babbler and I. I had done it, I had stayed calm and followed all the directions the nurses and doctors had given me, and I had had her naturally. She was alive and she was breathing. After those brief moments she was whisked to the waiting table where she was checked over and given oxygen. Three pounds, twelve ounces the nurse called out, and 17 inches long.
What can I say about that first glimpse? She was so tiny and pale, and more than a little fuzzy as she still had a lot of her lanugo. Her head fit in the palm of your hand, all of her fingers could wrap around the tip of one of your fingers. She was skinny - so skinny - with wrinkly skin where her baby chub should have been. Her delicate legs and feet, slender enough that Mr Babbler could have easily slipped his wedding ring onto her ankle.
Then the neonatologist announced that she could spend a few moments with us before she was moved up to the NICU. They handed us our little Peanut, wrapped in the blue and pink striped blanket, and asked if we had a camera. We told them no, we weren't planning on having the baby that night. So instead we simply held her and looked at what we had made. Her tiny fingers, so tiny that you could see almost through them. Her soft fuzzy head. Her squished nose and rolled up ears. Her puffy little face. Her little stork marks, one in her eyebrow. Her chin, almost cleft, just like her daddy's. She was so delicate and tiny, and our sense of awe and our sense of responsibility was enormous.
A nurse soon came to us and took her to the incubator, to begin her journey to the NICU. The time that followed was perhaps strangest of all. We were left with the aftermath of birth but without our child. I was cleaned up (detailed, like a car really) and transferred to the maternity ward. I was given a semi-private room, but fortunately there was no other mother, no mother with their child in a bassinet pulled up tightly to their bed, there to mock my child-less state. Mr Babbler and I tried to rest, but couldn't. Just after 6 am, we started making calls to our family. Later that morning Mr Babbler went to the NICU to visit the Peanut. She had her spot, just inside the NICU doors. Mr Babbler warned me, she was fully hooked up to monitors and cables and IVs and tubes. He snapped our first photos.
Friends and family came and went, listening to the crazy story of our Peanut's birth and seeing our little girl, like Snow White in her glass box. Evening came, and when we went to visit her the kind nurse took pity on us. She allowed us to hold her. Fortunately, a friend was there to capture the moment.
Finally, at about this time a year ago, Mr Babbler went home to get some sleep and I was left alone. Finally, finally, I broke down and sobbed. I cried for my failure to protect my little girl. I cried for my birth experience. I cried for my baby, tucked away in a glass box in the NICU. I cried for what I was missing - breastfeeding, waking up in the middle of the night, changing diapers, caring for my baby. And I cried for what was to come - the weeks of time in the NICU. The potential for setbacks. For the unknown.
In the end, though, we were lucky. I lasted three days on bedrest, and that gave my body the time it needed for the steroids to work, and the Peanut's lungs to develop more fully. We were able to stay in our home town instead of giving birth in a foreign country. We had an excellent team of nurses and doctors after a weak beginning. I was able to hold my baby girl before she was taken away to the NICU. For all of these things, I am grateful.
But most of all, I am grateful to her. For being such an amazing little girl. For being a fighter, for being resilient, for showing the doctor a thing or two about beating expectations and preemie-hood and NICU life. For showing me how lucky I am, we are, to have her.
A year ago today, I fell in love.