“It’s been a long 48 hours…”
Wednesday was a day I was looking forward to. Our small group was coming to cram into the little family room down the hall and throw us a baby shower, but at 2:00 am, I made another middle of the night call to my husband. I was experiencing contractions that sent me straight down to the Labor & Delivery floor.
Though these contractions were the worst I’d experienced yet, they were nothing a big dose of mag couldn’t take care of. So there I laid again, contracting, fire-hot from the mag and doing the math over and over again – I’d last eaten at 6:00 pm on Tuesday. 12 hours turned into 18 turned into 24 and finally turned into 27.5 hours before I was stabilized enough to be allowed to eat dinner. I’d hoped this meant I had survived another L&D visit on contraband fruit snacks and slushies and I would be sent back up to my room in OB Special Care, but they wanted to keep me just a bit longer to confirm things were ok.
My mind at ease, having gotten past contractions, eaten and cooled after the rush of mag, I told my husband we should try to get some sleep. We’d cancelled our baby shower, all we needed to focus on was having a better tomorrow.
But our tomorrow began when the nurse nudged me awake at 1:30 am, asking me to lay on my side. I knew exactly what this meant. My baby was tachy.
My contractions were still present, and with each one, my baby’s tachycardia was pausing for decelerations. Dr. W, the same resident who admitted us 35 days earlier, came in and performed a speculum that revealed (though he didn’t tell us at the time) the umbilical cord had slipped and was being squeezed with each contraction. He left the room to get the attending physician, Dr. M, while my nurse hooked me up to another round of mag. This was, for us, the sign. You don’t do two rounds of magnesium in Labor & Delivery if you’re not delivering. This one was not to ward off contractions. It was for neuroprotection for the baby who was going to be born today.
Shortly after, Dr. M came into the room with Dr. W. He explained our situation saying, “There’s a fine line between when it’s best for baby to stay in and when it’s best for baby to come out. I think we’ve crossed that line, so if it’s alright with you, I think we’ll move toward delivery now.” I trusted Dr. M so much in that moment that if he’d told me he thought it was best for me and Kevin to invest in an Airbus A380 Superjumbo Jet, I think I would have started looking for a way to make that happen.
I nodded my head, agreeing to move forward with the delivery. He encouraged us, saying he felt we had time to not rush down the hall to an operating room, cutting me open however they could to get the baby out as fast as possible, but that we could do this as if we were planning it. And then everyone turned and left the room.
I looked at my husband. We were silent for a minute. And then I said, “So, June 29. I wish it were an even number.”
We then moved into a conversation I never quite imagined. As I choked back tears, I made the switch from panic to peace, saying to my stoic husband, “We’re in the best place possible right now for this. We’re going to be ok,” trying to convince him and, oddly, believing my own words.
When the nurse returned to further prepare us, telling Kevin what he would be doing and getting me ready to go to the operating room, I turned one last time to my husband, told him he better be praying and asked him to give me a kiss. And then they wheeled me out of the room, while I prayed, silently, over and over again, the only five words that came to mind.
“She’s yours, God. Save her.”
Just down the hall, we turned into a pristine operating room with probably 15 uniformly dressed people buzzing about, bringing this from here to there, prepping this, moving this… It was so clean and bright, you might have convinced me it was heaven had I not been going through hell.
I moved over to the operating table where they had me sit first to receive my spinal. A nurse – most likely one who’d done this hundreds of times, seen hundreds of overwhelmed moms about to undergo the knife, and even hundreds too soon – placed her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes, captivating my attention away from the too bright and too busy room, and explained to me what was about to happen. To this day, I remember two things about this nurse: her eyes and the fact that I just wanted to cling to her and cry despite having just met.
I hunched over as they began first with a small shot of lidocaine and then with the large needle that was my spinal. My leg involuntarily jolted. Having read up on spinals, I had a flash of fear that I might have just been paralyzed, before going back to focusing on the task at hand.
They turned my body and laid me back onto the operating table, positioning my arms in a T, pulling a curtain across my chest and explaining, “You’ll feel pressure and some tugging, but you won’t feel pain…” As they continued, they also put the knife to my flesh and I was instantly inwardly panicked over why I could feel so much. I questioned whether the spinal had even set in and if I should say something before realizing they’d already made the entire cut.
My husband entered the room in scrubs and sat by my head next to the anesthesiologist, the curtain across my chest blocking our view from the unconventional birth of our baby.
Dr. M sat with Dr. W as he worked – tugging, pushing, pulling – to get our baby out, my body swaying back and forth and, for the first time this pregnancy, frigid. In a matter of minutes, the nurses cheered out in unison the current time. Baby girl was out. She was immediately handed over to the waiting neonatal team who immediately intubated her. They allowed my husband to cut what little bit they’d left of the umbilical cord as a sweet gesture. He watched as they took measurements, cleaned her up a bit and got her ready to make the run to her next destination, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
My view having been blocked by the many people involved in finishing up my surgery and saving my baby’s life, the neonatal nurses stopped by my head with my baby on their way out, showing her to me for the first time. I squeezed the words, “Hi baby girl…” out of my throat before tearing up as the tiniest baby – my baby – looked at me. I gave her a kiss, and they took her away, my husband following as we had agreed he would do.
Dr. M and Dr. W continued to work on me, removing the placenta, the large cysts on my ovaries that had grown throughout my pregnancy and the large hematoma I’d accumulated. It was as if, in that brief surgery, they were giving me my body back. For 27 weeks and 5 days, my body served solely as God’s incubator for this tiny, little girl.
Having no clue what was happening on the other side of the curtain or in the hospital next door with my baby, I talked and joked around with the anesthesiologist as they closed me up, voicing their optimism as to how their part in the process had gone. When the nurses began wheeling me out of the operating room, Dr. M placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “I think this is where we part ways. I want you to know I’ll be thinking about you.” And I often still think about him, too. I can only hope the next generation of doctors are as genuinely caring as Dr. M was.
The nurses brought me into recovery room number one where I sat alone for a while, occasionally being asked to wiggle the toes I could not yet wiggle. I didn’t sit there in fear. I wasn’t worrying. I wasn’t happy my baby had just been born. I wasn’t anything.
My part was done. My body was mine. My baby was God’s.
In the stats:
Gestational Age: 27 weeks, 5 days
Days of blood: 64
Days of bedrest: 85
Pre-Hospital Stay Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Days in the hospital: 35
IV starts: 6 (12 IV pokes)
Magnesium drips: 5
Trips to Labor & Delivery: 6
Sets of visitors to see Mandi: 53