Once upon a time ago Way up in the land of sleet and snow How this fairy tale would go I could not have known*
A few weeks ago I loaded the kids into the car, handed the keys to my dad, and told Ranger that I'd pick him up from preschool dismissal in a few hours. Although my energy levels were low and I was having a few strange symptoms, this pregnancy consistently depleted me in ways prior pregnancies had not.
The morning's routine OB visit would most likely confirm some sort of Braxton-Hicks false alarm and leave me with instructions to "take it easy" for the next 6 weeks. At worst, I thought I might be sent home for more formal bed rest.
One routine ultrasound, non-stress test, and doctor's appointment later, I was walking into the hospital admissions to be monitored and given further tests. The routine blood screening results pointed to a completely unsuspected problem, I met the high-risk pregnancy specialist, and short term monitoring ensued. My dad transferred the kids to Jim as the morning's tests stretched into the afternoon. My comfortable clothing was vanquished for a hospital gown while night fell outside the windowless triage unit. Around the time the hospital kitchen closed for the night, I was informed that the doctor had ordered a 24 hour test and I wouldn't be going home until the test's completion. Everything was weird, but I still expected to return home pregnant.
Around midnight I moved to an actual hospital room. With a hospital gown, fetal monitoring cables, rampantly unshaven legs (think wookie), and a pregnant woman's bladder, the en suite bathroom was a welcome change from regularly walking down a public hallway with cables resting over my neck (hiking up the gown in awful ways). When the nurses confiscated my cup of water in the middle of the night, I wrote the whole situation off as a need for fasting bloodwork. I slept fitfully for a few hours still thinking I would return home within 24 hours.
Shortly before dawn, a technician filled vial after vial with blood. My water cup made no return appearance and a nurse put me on an IV. Something was afoot. I texted Jim and my dad about this, but didn't make the cognitive leap. I called my mom (she doesn't text) and said that I might be being prepped for something, but the 24 hour test wouldn't be over for at least 12 more hours.
A couple minutes later, my OB walked in the room and told me that she couldn't sleep at night because my first round of blood work results were mysterious and alarming. That morning's results were even worse, and I would be having the baby in about an hour.
It was then I knew I had made my first mistake
I had less than an hour to get Jim there, arrange impromptu care for the kids, and inform my parents (who live at least 30 minutes away from the hospital). During a few frantic calls arranging the transfer of car seats and kids**, hospital staff started surgical prep. I gathered up my few personal items and just tried to manage the logistics from a hospital bed that suddenly seemed to be on the other side of the moon.
One (accidental) look in the mirror told me that I shouldn't see the kids before surgery. My typically scruffy appearance had turned from indifferent to unwell. I wasn't quite ready to be cast in a zombie movie, but it no longer required blood work to see that things were abnormal. I didn't want to scare the kids (and Ranger already dislikes hospitals), so I made more calls to make sure they didn't come to see me. Jim made it just in time to prep and attend the birth.
I said come on baby Come on baby Come on baby
Except for the expedited nature of the birth, everything else was familiar. Same surgical staff and anesthesiologist as both of the other kids. The recognizable experience lulled me into thinking that everything else would be familiar, even when they introduced me to a nurse from the NICU who take care of the baby after the birth.
In the swirl of the operating room, the great question of baby gender was finally answered: a baby girl, a new daughter, a new sister...
It was then I met this girl so fine She made me think so fast I left my thoughts behind
I got to hold her, this miniature doppelganger of earlier Jones babies, for a head-swimming moment
I could see her light began to shine
She turned...her eyes met mine And suddenly the whole world became A better place
Even if it was only for an instant
Then the NICU nurse rushed her off fearing respiratory distress.
It was then I knew I had made my
The recovery room seemed quiet to the point of vacancy. Despite all signs to the contrary, I kept hoping that the curtain would draw back and the baby would be rolled in. Instead each tug of the curtain only revealed someone else with questions or tests for me.
Soon the my bed was on the move. I was wheeled to our daughter's baby-warming bassinet in the NICU and able to hold her briefly.
It was then I knew I had made my third mistake
In the NICU's bright lights and beeping alarms, I realized that our baby wasn't the exceptional case- the miracle baby who would elude the NICU and an extended hospital stay despite a premature birth. She would not stay overnight in my hospital room. She would have to gain weight and learn to digest food before she could leave specialists' care.
Then, like some twisted Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, I found my bed on the move again as I left our tiny baby in the care of others, well-trained strangers, but strangers none the less.
Yes three strikes right across the plate And as I hollered honey please wait She was gone
Hours turned to days as the baby and I struggled to normal functioning. I came home without her, and Jim and I worked to be at the hospital for most of her medical tests and waking time (8 feedings, 1 every 3 hours). She grew stronger, achieved milestones, and eventually was released into our care. Soon she was in our chaotic home meeting her siblings for the first time.
And that's when she knew She had made her First mistake.
Honey I don't know just what you heard But come on baby Are my favorite words And where we're going Is a long way from here
So like I said before I could not have known How this fairy tale would finally go
Still the only certain thing for sure Is what I do not know
So like the years and all the seasons pass And like the sand runs through the hour glass
I just keep on running faster Chasing the happily I am ever after
I just keep on running faster Chasing the happily I am ever after
*If you don't listen to Lyle Lovett, you should start immediately. And yes, Logan, I was thinking of Deer Creek when I wrote this.
**Thank you, Francie. Your willingness to jump in and help with only moment's notice is extraordinary in both kindness and logistics. You amaze me, friend.
***Baby Toolkit is the ongoing thoughts of two geek parents. We are all doing well (except for a lack of sleep) as we adjust to this new routine. Happy New Year, small print readers (you know we love you the most)!