Thursday, December 30, 2010

Her First Mistake: Our Story of Premature Birth

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
Second mistake
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)!


Chief Family Officer said...

I felt so panicky as I read this, so I am glad you're all doing okay! Happy New Year!

Hannah said...

Wow, thanks for sharing such an amazing story. I'm so glad that you are all doing well. I am so thankful everyday for the health of those I love and babies are gifts and every entry into this world is a miracle.

I've been enjoying your blog for a long time now. Thanks.

AudnZaxMom said...

You really captured me in that post. I thought the most poignant moment was your description of your hospital bed being on the other side of the moon. I had several similar visits to the hospital before my beautiful daughter was born and you described it perfectly. Thank you for your wonderful post - I pray for a happy and healthy new year for you and your family.

Logan said...

I love you so hard for being the only person on earth who could effectively weave the story of a terrifying operation and sick baby together with Lyle Lovett. Pretty much everything, even hospitals, could use more Lyle IMO.

I'm so glad that your wee one is home and that you're all doing better. I've been thinking of you all more then you know. Give all the kids hugs for me. And play that baby some Joshua Judges Ruth. That always inspires me to feel better. XOXO

LutherLiz said...

Sounds much like my own story - (pre-e?).

But kids grow and get better and the panic and the sadness and the mistakes fade as your child blossoms.


Anonymous said...

OH, gosh, I was just checking your blog and got all frantic reading this. I'm really glad you're ok.


Kendra said...

I just stumbled onto your blog, and that is one of my favorite songs! I'll never hear it quite the same way again. (I meant that in a good way) I'm so glad your baby girl is OK.