I picked up the phone with a shaking hand and dialed a familiar number. "Something is wrong. Yes, I am headed to the hospital. I have a ride. It's too soon! Pray. I'll meet you there." I steeled myself. I don't cry under pressure. I am the one that everyone runs to for help, I don't fall apart when the going gets tough. I push through. It wouldn't do to fall apart. Someone had to keep it together; keep a clear head.
My mother-in-law showed up to take me to the hospital and I tried to quiet the thoughts that refused to be stilled. I took stock. I was exactly thirty weeks pregnant. And my water had just broken. I had done all the right things. This wasn't my first child, I had two others. They were easy pregnancies and even easier births. I knew about pregnancy. I make it my business to know what there is to know about any subject of interest. I knew that thirty weeks is too early. The lungs aren't viable yet.
I swallowed the sudden lump in my too-dry throat and prayed silently to myself. At the hospital, I had to register. I usually pre-register, but I had time, since I was not even into my third trimester yet. I wasn't supposed to be here. It was too soon. I wasn't ready. This was taking too long, I could feel contractions!
The admittance clerk read the questions with a studied boredom. She had seen everything before. When was the date of my last menstrual cycle? Was I peeing regularly? Did I feel sick? YES. Yes, I felt sick, dammit. My child's life was hanging in the balance and she wanted to know my bathroom habits! That's when I called out to anyone who would listen, "I am in labor! My baby is early, and I need HELP!" The triage nurse came running over, took one look at me, my ashen face and wild eyes and yelled at the clerk, "Do this later!"
They wheeled me into a room, and hooked me up to an IV full of mag sulfate. For anyone who has ever had it, you understand. For those who haven't... think the worst. First, it makes you want to jump out of your skin. And it makes you sick to your stomach. As I floated in and out of consciousness (something else that mag sulfate can do, not to mention stress) I dreamed about my baby. When I am really distraught, I pray in my dreams. I don't know if this is something that others do, or if it is a spiritual thing that only I do. I asked God to protect my child. And then I passed out.
I woke up in the hospital ante-partum room. The nurse was kind, but brisk: "You'll be staying here until you deliver. Since your water didn't break completely, we will try to hold off delivering the baby until her lungs are mature. The doctor will come tomorrow to give you something that will help the baby's lungs mature faster. But you could deliver tomorrow, or in months. We have no way of knowing. For now, the baby is fine." I looked up and met my husband's concerned eyes. Neither of us would voice the question that hung in the air. Now what?
Time passed rather quickly in the ante-partum unit. I had my computer, and dial-up modem service. I had magazines and tv to watch. I settled into a routine. My family came to visit a lot. I was woken in the wee hours to draw blood. And I grew used to the trickle of the amniotic fluid as it continued to replenish itself in order to allow the baby to grow. I willed myself to keep the baby inside, I am a control freak, and I was going to do this, no matter what. And I did. For a while.
I woke up one morning to contractions. I had been in the hospital for twelve days at that point. I called the nurse, and they monitored me. Assured me I was not having contractions, at least none they could detect. I kept saying I had them, and they monitored and said no, there aren't any. Relieved, I started to relax. Around five in the evening, they came to my room and the usual calm, easy-going nurses were all-business. Brusque and serious, they informed me that yes, I was having contractions, and I was being moved to the labor room now. My body had let me down for the first time, ever.
I have two other children. I have given birth twice before. I know what to expect. The other two were delivered at a high-end hospital that is so nice it has ocean views from the windows. They have LDR rooms, where you labor, deliver and recover in the same room. Bringing your own soothing music is encouraged, as is walking the hand-buffed hardwood floor and, rocking in heirloom-quality rocking chair. After birth, the baby is given to mama, and able to nurse immediately. It is truly a wonderful experience.
This experience was nothing like that. I labored in a hospital room that was old and looked like a hospital room. There was no ocean view, and no music of my choice. This was a Borg Birth from Interventions R Us. I had an internal fetal monitor, a catheter, an IV, an epidural. I was told that for the baby's safety, in the event of an emergency C-section, that the epidural was necessary. I had hoped for Bradley natural childbirth, but hadn't yet taken the classes at that point. After all, I thought I had plenty of time. My first child was born in six hours. My second child took four and a half hours. They were easy and almost fun births and I was able to immediately bond with them through breastfeeding.
I labored under the paraphernalia mentioned above for about seven hours. Finally, I had to push, and they transported me to
someone's shower the Operating Room. It was green with tile everywhere and I couldn't escape the thought that I was giving birth in a bathroom. J was not allowed to enter until he scrubbed up and donned a gown and a mask. It was like a costume party gone awry. I never expected to be there. My first two were born with a minimum of fuss. There was some weighing and measuring, but no interventions. This birth, though vaginal, had a crash cart and a neo-natal team of six standing by.
I continued to labor and could feel the baby traveling down the birth canal. With a few small pushes, out she came. She weighed 3 pounds and 14 oz. She was 161/2 inches long. She looked like a small doll. She was breathing on her own, so the neonatal team wasn't needed, thank God. She had all of her fingers and all of her toes. They wrapped her in a blanket. I wasn't able to hold her or nurse her, but I did get to see her.
They congratulated me then, whisked her to the NICU. J went with her, and I was left alone with my thoughts. It would be many years before she would be diagnosed with autism. Right then, I just thanked God that she was healthy and breathing. And that's how JBean came into the world, at 31.4 weeks. She announced her presence with a bang. She still does, my daughter of thunder. She is seven today. Happy Birthday my sweetheart.
Mommy loves you.
T, who asks where does the time go??