I’ve debated for a long time whether to post my children’s birth stories. On the one hand, it feels a bit narcissistic to publish them, but on the other, aren’t all of my posts a bit narcissistic? It does seem from what I’ve read elsewhere that many people enjoy reading birth stories, so in honor of Sarah Kate’s 10th birthday today, I’ve decided to go ahead with a multi-part narrative. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for the full story; the epilogue will be published next Thursday.
Most of the next 24 hours are fuzzy.
I remember being moved to a bigger room, and I remember asking for the air to be turned down multiple times. My normally hot-natured husband lay shivering under heated blankets while I fought against the mag that made me feel as if my body were burning from the inside out. Eventually, it worked and the contractions stopped, and I was (at long last!) allowed to eat. One of the clearest memories I have of that hospital stay is how delicious the breakfast they served me was. Of course, food always tastes better when you’re hungry.
By day eleven, I wasn’t such a fan of the hospital breakfast.
The next few days were one long, dull, continuous cycle of of terbutaline shots, lying on my left side, and endlessly viewing James Bond movies as part of the “007 Days of Christmas” on one of the hospital’s few cable channels. My mom, stepdad, and sister dropped in one day on their way to my grandparents’ house for Christmas, which was not even a little bit spirit-lifting for me. They had purchased the bedding and other items for the baby’s room for my Christmas present, and having it all piled up on the end of my hospital bed prison only depressed me.
The two highlights of the week were when my friend Sandy dropped by with a decent pillow and grilled steaks that her husband had prepared – their family’s Christmas tradition – and when my boss’ best friend dropped by with an angel ornament. She was a casual acquaintance of mine (I had photographed her children), and ten years later, I don’t even remember her name (I think it was Stephanie…), but that angel is one of my favorite ornaments and ranks a prime spot on our tree every year. We hung it above Sarah Kate in her incubator for several weeks in the NICU.
On Thursday, December 26, the terbutaline stopped working.
Before going home for the day, my ob/gyn stopped by and suggested that we might need to deliver soon if things didn’t turn around. When she left the room, Mr. Andi and I looked each other, each knowing what the other was thinking. This baby was coming on Friday.
The night nurse did what she could, but it was apparent after a few hours that things were not improving, and – more concerning – the monitor was beginning to show signs of distress in Sarah Kate. She told me that they were moving me back to labor and delivery. Hyped up on terbutaline and nervous energy, I couldn’t rest, much less sleep, and Mr. Andi stayed up with me. L&D was busy that night, as is often the case when a weather front comes through, so several hours passed before I was finally moved. We were settled back in that tiny room near the L&D desk around 4:30 a.m., and around 6:00 a.m. began calling our families.
When my ob/gyn arrived, she told us she had scheduled delivery – by Caesarean, because Sarah Kate was breech – for 11:30 that morning.
The next few hours were filled with prep work, questions, waiting, and steeling ourselves for what was to come. We were pleased to see Katie make a return appearance; she seemed as surprised as we were that we had actually made it to Friday. Although she was not assigned to be my nurse that day, she arranged to be in the delivery room with us – another gift from God.
We were warned ahead of time that Sarah Kate might not cry, because she might not breathe on her own, and that I might not be able to see her, and would not be allowed to hold her, before she was taken to the NICU. The thought of having a baby who didn’t cry – or even breathe – was chilling, but I tried to put it out of my mind. The train was pulling out of the station, and it was time to get on.
From behind the blue barrier screen, I could see nothing of the delivery, though I could feel a lot. The pressure and jerking, as unpleasant as they were, helped to temper the feeling of panic rising in my chest. Would she breathe? Would she be okay? Then, at 11:58 a.m., I heard it. A teeny crying sound. The most beautiful sound in the world.
The neonatologist brought her over to me, which caused me to panic a little. Didn’t they need to take her away? Was there even time for them to let me see her? And then she was gone. I don’t remember much about the rest of that day, exhausted from lack of rest for six days and lack of sleep for one, and medicated to dull the pain of having my tiny daughter ripped from my belly.
But my baby – all two pounds, nine ounces of her – was breathing on her own.