Friday, February 11th will be a day to remember. I came home from work that night and things were pretty normal around the house. The laundry was piled up in the hallway so that I could haul it down to the laundromat as soon as I got home and avoid the hundreds of customers that would make there way through the steamy, cheap bane-of-my-existence a few doors down. Oh laundry, how I loathe thee!
Oh, and Erika casually mentioned to me before I left that she was leaking water all day. Uhhh...hmm. Smell? Negative. Color? Negative. Blood? Negative. Baby's head? Negative. Well, that's weird. She was at just 33 weeks and everything was healthy thus far, so certainly it couldn't be broken water, so what was it? We decided to give the doctor a call just to make sure. And he told us to come into the hospital just to make sure all was hunky dory and then we'd make our way home and he'd see us in six weeks when the baby was due.
Except that it didn't go like that at all. One thing I am proud about is that for the past few weeks, I had been joking that it would really be best for us to take the subway to the hospital when the baby was coming. I mean, why spend $18 when I could spend $2.50 instead? Well, totally confident that it couldn't be broken water, we decided to take the subway. It was actually nice that way (for me) because it gave us time to settle down and relax and to further convince myself that it couldn't possibly be the water, even though all signs pointed to it being so.
We got to the hospital, got lost in the innards of the hospital trying to go from one side to the other (the hospital is about five blocks long - massive!), and then finally got a confirmation that the water was indeed broken. Eff. This wasn't supposed to happen this way! The final words from the doctor? "Welcome to Mt. Sinai!"
So we settled into a delivery room and had no idea what to think. I hadn't brought ANYTHING with me except a mobile phone, so there would need to be some work done the next day. But, for the evening, it was the same as it would be for the next five days. Sitting around with Erika plugged into antibiotics, steroids, and fluids. We got the SOS text messages sent out, I got Paul to sign up for some volunteer activities for the next day, and we both got scatter brained over the implications of this event.
The baby was early. Six and a half weeks early. Apparently, 34 weeks is an important milestone for a baby because at that point the baby is more or less fully developed and is just a little skinny. The 34th week began in five days, which was the target date for the delivery. The baby couldn't stay in forever because without the amniotic sack he was at a higher risk for infection. But he didn't need to come out right away either, so he could hang tight inside, suck up the steroids to make sure his lungs were fully developed, and then mommy would get pumped full of Pitocin and the labor would begin.
But first, I had some major work to do. I was scheduled to pick up our gently-used stroller off Craigslist the next day (a nice $300 savings on that one), I had to go home to take a shower, do the laundry, and pack up the bags for the hospital. I clearly was not in the right frame of mind to do this on my own, so big ups to Paul for the help that day.
Five days later, we were woken up at 6:00am and wheeled to a new delivery room. My mom was in town by then, so we settled in and the fun started at 7:00am. To make a long story short, Erika got thrown through the ringer for ten hours of strong, symmetric, artificial contractions without almost any progress. Like a good mom, her body was just not ready for the baby to come out! It finally became too much and shortly after the epidural, the baby started to show some signs of distress (heart-rate making V-patterns around the contractions) and the doctor left us to make a decision on whether to continue and wait until the baby really starts freaking out, or go ahead with the c-section.
It broke my heart that we needed a c-section. All I could think about was the fact that my wife had just suffered for ten hours for nothing, would have a long recovery ahead of her, and now we would become one of the 40% - a number that is way way too high - of patients who ends up with a c-section. But we had to do it because the most important thing was for the baby to be healthy.
The c-section was pretty scary. Erika was crucified on the delivery table with needles everywhere and a blue screen to prevent us from seeing anything. Her body was jerking around from the pulling, prodding, and slicing of the team of surgeons with the smell of burning flesh surrounding us and before I knew it, the baby was jumping out and started crying. He was tall, skinny, and white with a little bit of dark hair. I was snapping pictures and trying to take care of Erika at the same time. We got a few quick pictures of the baby before he was wheeled off to the NICU to begin his recovery while Erika started to get sewn up. More tugging and prodding and she started to complain that it was hurting her. The resident doctors just kept pumping her full of morphine and God knows what else, but I was completely hopeless and lost in the moment.
It was all over. I had to go take care of room reservations for the next four days of recovery and then take my Mom and Roberta up to see the baby and take care of Erika. The poor baby was already hooked up to an IV with tubes in his mouth and oxygen in his nose and looked so alone and skinny. It really broke my heart to see him like that, but to be honest, at the moment I really wanted to be with Erika because I knew she was alone and recovering from major surgery. What a terrible spot to be in!
Needless to say, the next four days were full of learning, trials and tribulations and some "fights" with nurses to have full access to the baby and figure out what was going on. But, all in all, the nurses took really good care of Erika in the recovery room and the NICU nurses were amazing with their knowledge, experience, and for the most part, cooperation. We had lots of wonderful messages of support and visits from our family and friends who helped us out more than we could ever thank them for!
A week and a half after, we got to bring Oliver home and we've been enjoying him ever since - as long as he only wakes up twice a night (like most nights)!!
J. Riley, I could write a novel with all of the details that I left out :o(