Monday, March 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

Today is the anniversary of the day that I became a Mommy. Three years ago, I gave birth to my first child, a daughter. We had waited for this day for what seemed like forever, but it was sooner than we had thought, sooner than we had hoped, sooner than we had wanted. Our daughter’s due date was May 26th. This day was 82 days too soon. At 28 weeks 2 days gestation, she was a good size at 2 lbs. 12 oz. She was a mere 14 ½ inches long. I had to take the word of my husband and my mother when they told me how beautiful and perfect she was. At this exact hour, 10:55 p.m., she was just over 19 hours old, and I still hadn’t seen her. Well, I guess one could argue that that may not be entirely true. As she was wheeled out of the delivery room in her little incubator, I was allowed to take a peek. The doctors were still attempting to deliver the placenta, and I was in a Stadol induced haze. I saw mostly blanket, with a little bit of pink. I assume that was her face, but from a few feet away, it was nothing recognizable to me. Our daughter was here, and then she was gone. I heard her cry, a teeny tiny wisp of a cry, before they took her away. I exhaled, for just a moment. I remember asking the nurse just as she emerged if she had chubby cheeks. They must have thought I was crazy. “No, honey, she doesn’t have chubby anything.” And off my little bundle went.

Off I went in another direction, to the operating room to have a D & C. I couldn’t keep my daughter in, but I couldn’t get the placenta out.

I had developed preeclampsia a few days before her birth, and as a precaution, was put on magnesium sulfate after delivery to ward off any post-childbirth seizures. Mag is a horrible drug. You feel as if you will spontaneously combust, and your muscles feel like they are melting. You are not allowed to eat for fear you will choke and aspirate your food, and you must remain in bed. My baby had been taken to the NICU, a floor above me, and I was stuck in a recovery room. My husband, my mother, even my friend and her daughter, all saw my tiny baby while I lay a floor below. The NICU sent down some blurry Polaroids. Looking back now, I can see how terrible the pictures are. In a digital world, they were almost primitive, but they were like gold to me. I propped them up on the bedside table and stared. It was the closest I was going to get to my own daughter for now. When I finally saw her, she would be nearly 24 hours old. It was the middle of the night and I could barely stand on my own two feet. My husband wheeled me up to the NICU and helped me into Nursery 3, where our little baby was. I stared at my child, hooked up to a ventilator, with intravenous lines in her umbilical stump and monitor leads stuck everywhere. Her diaper was laying under her, open but unfastened. She was no longer in a cozy little incubator. She lay in an open bed, a warmer a few feet above her little body keeping her from getting cold. Machines were beeping and hissing. The nurse told me what they were doing for her and how she was faring. I’m not sure I heard any of it. At that moment, I was unable to let any of the delicacy of her situation overshadow the joy I felt looking at her. Maybe it was the drugs, but I like to think it was a mother's love.

After a relatively brief visit, my husband brought me back to my room, and he went home, both of us exhausted. I quickly fell asleep, only to be awakened an hour or so later by a nurse, who informed me I would be moving across the floor. Off I went, into a new room and a new bed, my baby's pictures still with me. Sleep did not return easily. My mind had begun its race, winning out over my exhausted body. I stared into the dim light above my bed and recalled my visit to my newborn daughter's bedside. Suddenly, the euphoria had worn off. I realized she was in a grave situation. The next couple of days were critical, and even then, if she’d made it through, she wouldn’t be out of the woods. I surrendered and the tears fell. I lay in my hospital bed, on the day I became a mother, shaking and sobbing, trying not to make a sound. I was all alone. I was terrified. And all I could do was cry.

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