"My story…" Monday, The First Few Hours


C. was born at 12:32 AM on Christmas Eve. Her early arrival was both terrifying and awe-inspiring. As I wrote about in her birth story, she actually cried at birth which is pretty much unheard of for infants of this gestational age. While we were thrilled to hear her obvious survival of the birth, we knew we were not even close to out of the woods yet. Before being whisked off to the OR, the medical team had made sure to tell us that the next 48 hours would be critical. Even should she survive the birth, she had a less than 50% chance of making it through the next couple days…

Once they had removed her (bag and all) from inside me, she was quickly swept away with a large neonatal team. As she cried down the hallway, we realized that we did not know the gender of our child. The anesthesiologist called down the corridor, “Can we get the gender for the mom and dad?” A faint reply came, “It’s a girl!” Daddy was permitted to go with her while I waited out the lengthy process of getting stitches through four separate layers of me.

She scored a 7 on her Apgar which is nothing short of remarkable given how tiny and early she was. The nurses showed me her teeny, tiny footprint which was exactly the same length as my thumbprint.

They wheeled me into recovery and, once I could wiggle my toes (a sure sign that the spinal was starting to wear off), they pumped me full of morphine. I wasn’t there long before the neonatologist and her team breezed through with little C. tucked in her isolette (a kind of enclosed incubator) and stopped to let me see her for the first time. I was allowed to reach through a small hole in the side and touch her leg ever so gently. It is not the first meeting that one dreams of, but it was precious to me nonetheless.

From the recovery room, I called my parents in the wee hours of the morning that Christmas Eve and told them they had a granddaughter. My husband took over the rest of the calls. Everyone was scared, of course, but also excited. She was truly an amazing blessing that Christmas.

They cared for my daughter at a wonderful children’s hospital that attached to the hospital where I delivered. Over the next few hours, I was heavily drugged and they monitored me carefully. I had lost three units of blood in the labor and delivery and they were about to prep a transfusion. Somehow, my body managed to replenish itself in record time. During that time, my husband basically ran back and forth between C. and me. He’d head over to Riley and then come back to me with a report. It was kind of surreal being so far from my child, but I was blessed to have his first-hand reports.

At 4:30 in the morning, my phone rang and it was C’s doctor. My heart stuck in my throat. I waited for what she was about to say. This is what I heard,

“Your daughter extubated herself this morning. She’s really feisty and strong! We let her try to breathe without the ventilator for a little while and she did well, but then she got tired. We had to reintubate her, but she’s stable and doing well now.”

I didn’t know it then, but I was to receive many more phone calls along those same lines. C became famous (or infamous?) for pulling out tubes, IV’s, monitors, probes, you name it. I would always apologize for her behavior, as if I had anything at all to do with it, and the doctors and nurses would always remind me that they liked them feisty. It’s the feisty ones who make it.

About 9:00 that morning, a nurse came in and asked if I wanted to try and get into a wheelchair to go see my baby. Let me just tell you this, people. There is no greater incentive in the world to get up and moving after major surgery than the desire to see your child. I jumped at the chance (Ok, not literally, but I was ready!)

As they wheeled me through the breezeway, I could look out all the windows and watch a heavy, damp snow fall to the ground. It was pure and lovely and festive… and I was about to spend some time with my precious, darling daughter…

Merry Christmas Eve.

I’ll write more about that first day of C’s life next Monday. Thanks for reading.

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