Blood is rushing through a tube next to my face. There are a lot of people in this room. It is cold in here and there are a lot of machines making noise. I watch my heart rate blip on the monitor. 93, 92, 90, 92. If I just keep watching it, I won’t die. My brain takes over and tells me that if I just concentrate my heart can’t possibly stop. She slips out quietly and the room stands still for a brief second. When it moves again half the people in the room rush out taking her with them. I don’t hear her. I don’t see her.
“Now we can take care of you.” Says a voice on the other side of the curtain.
Many times I have sat down to write this story. But every time I do I worry that it sounds like a horror story. I don’t want it to be a horror story. I have never felt the need for it to be a warning to others. I want it to be a blessing. It is a blessing. My little girl is a blessing. Everything about her is a blessing; her conception, her birth and her near perfect development.
The weeks before her birth are standard other than this will be the first time I have gone into labor. My twins were a scheduled c-section. I have my last appointment with the midwife on Monday. She is overdue and we are concerned because my husband’s final exam at the fire academy is on Friday. The midwife cocks her head to the side, smiles and says “Oh, well. You know she will come on Friday, right?”
Tuesday the contractions start in the evening. I feel a rush of excitement. I am alone. My husband is at work, my mom and the twins have gone to bed. At 3:00 am I wander around the house and happily pack a bag.
Wednesday night I call the midwife and say I am coming in. I am not dilated when I get there. They say I can go home and get some rest. I tell them I would rather stay because laboring with two year old twins crawling over me has worn me out.
Wednesday night goes by. I ride waves of pitocin all the next day while my husband studies for his exam in the cafeteria. I am tired to the bone Thursday night. I am dilated to a 7 at 10:00 PM. Something isn’t right. I haven’t peed all day and my bladder aches but nothing comes out.
“What should I do? Is this normal?”
“It is up to you. Yes, it is normal.”
Please, someone tell me what to do. I am too tired to think. It hurts too much to think. Just tell me what to do. Please.
Epidural and catheter.
“Between 2 and 4 AM, I think you’ll be ready to push.”
2:00 comes and goes. 4:00 comes and goes. 6:00 my husband gets up. The nurse says nothing is going to happen for awhile. We agree he needs to leave for his final exam. I will call if anything starts to happen.
Even though my legs are numb there is a stabbing pain rising and falling on my left side. A flame pressed to my skin.
There is a scuffling sound, footsteps and paper rustling. I blink my eyes and look around. There are close to ten people in the room. There is a doctor, not the midwife. He looks at the fetal heart monitor and says something about the monitor being out of place and they are having a hard time finding the heart beat.
He needs to examine me. My legs are so numb I can’t move them. I hear, “too much blood…”
Plugs and cords are ripped from the walls. There is yelling. The end of my bed slams into the door frame.
“What is happening?” I feel like I am screaming but it comes out in a cracked moan.
“I am scared,” I whisper into the chaos.
I watch the ceiling tiles speed by above me. I think to myself “I am going to die. My baby is going to die.” I think about my husband and I see a flash of him standing in an empty hallway and I think, “Will he be okay? Will he forgive himself?”
I am lifted from one table to the next in the white room filled with machines and lights. My body a lead weight. Doctors and nurses are talking over the top of me. Anesthesia.
“I don’t want to go to sleep! I don’t want to go to sleep!” If I go to sleep I might not wake up.
I see his blue eyes above the surgical mask. I don’t know what he is doing there, suddenly next to my face. I grab his arm. He looks straight at me and I lock my eyes into his. “I’m scared.” I whisper to him, a secret between him and me. I grip his forearm, digging my fingers in. I cling to him. He is my anchor. He doesn’t break eye contact. He stays with me until he can’t any longer and he gently peels my fingers from his arm and says, “You are doing great.”
14 minutes from the time the doctor walked into my room she slips quietly into this world on a Friday morning.
I ask the midwife to find my video camera. I don’t tell her but I don’t want to die without seeing her.
They bring me a short video and play it next to my face. It is hard to see what she looks like under the tubes. But I hear her crying. I see her moving.
I stare at my heart rate on the monitor and a female pediatrician comes in. She is talking about an ice blanket, lowering the baby’s body temperature for 3 days. She is asking my permission because there is no one else to ask. She tells me it reduces swelling in the brain. It can help reduce brain damage. Will I give permission?
The minutes go by on the clock. They talk about blood loss. They talk about me. They comment about how calm I am.
“I am concentrating,” I want to say but I can’t take my eyes of the monitor.
Then my mom is there. She smiles at me, her smile pinched. Her face is frozen, the stricken calm of an emergency. The room is finally quiet. It is still white and cold but the doctors and nurses have gone. It is just me and her and the units of blood dripping slowly back into my body, replacing the blood that rushed out through the tubes or spilled out on the floor.
They bring her in and all I can see coming out of the tubes and machines is her thick head of black hair. I touch her little hand, but I can’t see her face. I know that she looks just how I had imagined for 9 months. Black hair and blue eyes just like her daddy. She is a strong nine pounds. There is no swelling in her brain and she won’t need the ice blanket.
Finally my husband is with me. Standing next to my bed, his hand nervously wringing my hand. A tear escapes through his eyelashes.
It will be two days before I get to hold her. She gets stronger every minute. When she is able they bring her from the NICU to my room where I can see her through the tubes that are now attached to me pumping the contents of my stomach out through my nose.
In the weeks and months after her birth there were suggestions that I sue the hospital. That my labor shouldn’t have gone on as long as it did. That they should have anticipated that my uterus would tear all the way across my previous c-section scar and then down to my pelvis. It doesn’t seem right. It is not what I want. For so many things that went wrong, so many things went right. I want to feel grateful. I do feel grateful. I have no regrets. My baby is beautiful and healthy… and alive. And I am alive to sit here and look at her in wonder every day.