My doctor’s words ran chills down my [partially-numbed] spine.
“This baby was meant to be here.”
He was, truly. I don’t know what his purpose is in life, other than to be loved by us, but I’ve believed from the very beginning that he is simply meant to be.
I suppose the same could really be said of any child, but what my doctor meant was more literal. Of course I couldn’t see it from my vantage point - flat on the operating room table with a heavy blue curtain in front of my face - but I could make out from the conversation around me that she had held up the umbilical cord for Matt to see.
“There’s a true knot in his cord,” she told me.
Thankfully, the cord was healthy and the knot was still loose. No harm was done - but the reality of what could have happened set in for me just after we got home from the hospital.
The what-ifs strike fear in my heart, especially when I consider them while smooching his squishy cheeks or pressing my nose into his sweet-smelling hair.
I count among my blessings the fact that he decided to make his appearance at 38 weeks, one week to the day before he was to be taken by force. (My third c-section was scheduled for March 30.)
I don’t know that I was grateful as my water broke at about 9 a.m. Friday, March 23 - two hours before what was to be my last regular OB appointment. I didn’t have a bag packed, my deadlines weren’t met and no one was dressed for the day. I was. not. ready.
This water breaking business is a phenomenon I didn’t experience with Beans or Tallulah, by the way, and it’s one I can no longer understand being in question. (What I mean is that I’ve heard countless moms-to-be pondering whether their water has broken. How can this be in question??)
Anyway, I called my doctor’s office and was told to head to labor and delivery.
Beans was on spring break, and I have to say I’ve never been so grateful for the help of a 7-year-old. I don’t know what I would have done without him.
He actually offered to help, y’all. And I took him up on it. The first thing I asked him to do was to go upstairs and wake up Tallulah.
“You have to get up! The baby’s coming today!” I heard him relay, based on the rudimentary explanation I’d given him about the urgency of our situation.
“OK!” she responded cheerfully, despite being jolted out of a sound sleep.
Beans escorted his little sister downstairs and then set out to get himself dressed - he even brushed his own teeth without even being asked. (What a kid, no? Color me super impressed.)
Meanwhile, I threw the few clothes I could find into a bag, along with the cord blood donation kit I wouldn’t get to use that day (the UAMS program can only pickup donations before 3 p.m. on Fridays; my c-section wouldn’t get underway in time) and waited for Matt to get home to pick us up.
Matt might have been a bit flustered by the suddenness of it all – I only say that because he drove me to the ER instead of to the main entrance before remembering that wasn’t where we needed to go.
Before long we were headed up to the second floor. I’m going to stop here and apologize for my abruptness to the nice man who tried to converse with me as I stood at the admissions desk in L & D. I had completed all my pre-admission paperwork and was dismayed that I had to dig through my wallet for identifying information (yeah, yeah, fraud, schmaud) while fervently praying that my last pair of clean pants wouldn’t get obviously, embarrasingly soaked during the wait.
I was finally taken to a room and given a gown to change into (I’m never sure which way the opening should go, and everyone knows these things are not the most flattering designer pieces in the world by any stretch, but 2-year-old Tallulah ooohed and ahhhed over it like I was dressed to walk down the runway. I think she’s already getting the hang of this womanhood thing. We do stick together, Tallulah – thanks for showering me with the compliments when I needed them most.)
I was hooked up to monitors that would play the reassuring heartbeat of my baby in the background as I started answering the nurse’s questions, just the beginning of the long wait to meet him.
I had texted my mom before heading to the hospital and she and my dad must have flown here from their home a little over an hour away.
They arrived not long after Matt left to take Beans and Tallulah to his mom’s. Everyone would reconvene at the hospital when we had more news.
My doctor was already in the halls – there were lots of women in labor that day, my nurse told me. I knew I would be having a baby that day, but because I had eaten (a chocolate chip cookie washed down with some root beer. Don’t judge. I was hungry and waiting for my eggs to cook.), my doctor decided to wait until later in the afternoon to take me to the OR.
I laid in bed for hours, with some real contractions that didn’t get regular before the anesthesiologist came in to talk with me about the epidural she would be doing shortly. I felt strangely calm right up until this conversation started. But though my epidural before Beans’ birth went fine, a student did the one for Tallulah’s – and it took him five or six tries to get it right. I didn’t want to go through that torture again.
Luckily I didn’t have to. This lady was lovely. (Love was, in fact, her name.) The whole experience, overall, was about as lovely as you could imagine one taking place in an operating room being, actually.
In contrast with my last two c-sections, the operating room seemed almost empty when they rolled me in. I was taken by wheelchair – as opposed to on a stretcher the last times – and when I arrived, my doctor was sitting in the corner with her smartphone, and she joined my nurse – the same one who had been with me since I checked in that morning – and the anesthesiologist in engaging me in conversation as I hunched over, shivering, on the operating table and waited for her to stick the needle in my back. Eventually, another nurse and two NICU nurses came in, my husband appeared at my side and the surgery was underway. It would be a real stretch to say I was completely relaxed at that point – and I don’t mean to disparage the abilities of men in any way - but being surrounded by women, all professionals, all understanding and all compassionate – left me feeling supported in a way I couldn’t have imagined feeling in that position.
The nurses who cared for me during my recovery were amazing, too. So much so that when I checked out on the following Sunday afternoon, I exchanged hugs with the two who wheeled me and my brand new smooshy-faced little boy out to the car. My bed wasn’t very comfortable and the food was not that great but these ladies had taken care of me for half the time I was in the hospital, and I was grateful for the way they did it.
The anesthesiologist noticed without my even saying so that the oxygen mask made me claustrophobic and she propped it beside my nose and warned me before briefly placing in on my face every few minutes. And my arms – she had placed them gently on the armrests that stuck out on either side of the operating table, but she did not strap them down, and knowing that I wasn’t actually trapped there was unbelievably uplifting.
I had mourned, a little, the loss of the chance for a natural birth, and had even toyed with the idea of pushing for one (pun intended) this time around. This boy, however, was head down until a day or two before his arrival, but by the time my water broke he was a footling breech. I guess my mama was right – things do happen for a reason.
There was an obvious struggle to get the baby out and at one point, I heard my doctor mutter something to him about letting go of my ribs. His hands, she told me, were up over his head. I remember thinking it felt like forever before he was finally freed, but if that felt like forever, I don’t know how to even describe how the next little bit felt. I knew he was out – there was an instant lightness, an ease to my breathing – but I didn’t hear anything. I asked if he was OK and was instantly reassured that he was. He was moving, they told me, and I heard the NICU nurses say his apgars were 8/9, but still I couldn’t hear him …
The anesthesiologist told me he was crying softly and that I just couldn’t hear him from across the room and I had no reason not to believe her, but when I finally heard his little voice with my own ears I was so relieved that I let out a half-sob half-snort and realized I had been holding my breath for way too long.
I can’t wait to see who this little guy turns out to be. But for now, I’m just going to enjoy the sleepless newborn stage as much as I possibly can. So far, that’s a lot.