Sarah Kate’s birth story, published in honor of her 10th birthday in December, was among the most popular of my recent posts. As I said then, it seems a bit narcissistic to publish my children’s birth stories, but Sarah Kate’s was obviously interesting to many of you, who expressed interest in hearing Nathan’s, as well. He’ll turn three tomorrow, so in honor of his birthday, I’m posting his birth story (also in multiple parts). If you missed it, you can go here for Part 1. Come back Thursday for Part 3.
Unlike the multi-day ordeal leading up to Sarah Kate’s birth, Nathan’s came swiftly and unexpectedly.
My C-section had been scheduled; that’s how it was all supposed to shake out. I would pack my bags in advance, arrive at the hospital early, follow the procedures, and go methodically through the process. But his decision to make an early appearance threw me for a loop.
Little did I know, when I made the call to the hospital to let them know I was coming in, my doctor was already there delivering another baby. He told the nurse that I wasn’t a complainer, so if I was coming then I was most certainly in labor. Given my history of placental abruption and the fact that he wasn’t my doctor the first go ’round, he didn’t want to waste any time and risk a vaginal birth.
Scott called the mother of one of Sarah Kate’s good friends and she was more than happy to let Sarah Kate spend the night until my parents could arrive the next day, while I called my mother to let her know I was about to give birth.
The prep work took longer than expected.
My stubborn blood vessels refused the IV, as they had done countless times before while I was hospitalized with Sarah Kate in 2002. After they gave up the fight, the next roadblock was starting the epidural. All the while, I had a pit in my stomach that I tried to hide with nervous chatter…I ate a banana earlier – will that be a problem?
I was wheeled across the hall to the OR where I was spared the worst of the jerks, tugs, and pain that I experienced with Sarah Kate’s birth. I lost the banana, but otherwise it was a vastly superior birth experience. I heard Nathan cry, and felt a wave of relief wash over me and heard an enthusiastic WOOHOO! from Mr. Andi. The baby I had feared wouldn’t make it was living, breathing, and just a few feet away. He was bundled up and passed over to us; the anesthesiologist snapped a quick photo.
In that moment, all was – at long last – right with the world.
Mr. Andi followed him to the nursery while the doctors finished with me and wheeled me to recovery. Within a few minutes, he returned. He sat down in a chair near my bed and propped his head on his hand. He didn’t look directly at me, and the joy he had expressed just a few moments earlier was gone. Something was very wrong.
I asked him what was going on, but he refused to answer, never meeting my gaze. The pit in my stomach returned. I pressed him further and eventually he capitulated and flatly stated, “They think he may have Down syndrome.”
There it was.
I had felt from the beginning that something wasn’t right. That my baby wouldn’t be born healthy. That he wasn’t going to make it. My insides felt jittery, and my heart seemed to change into stone as I absorbed the words. Strangely, though, I didn’t feel the devastation that I’ve heard described by so many other mothers who were surprised by a Down syndrome diagnosis. I felt two things: a confused relief that it was “only” Down syndrome, and a fear of what the diagnosis might do to Mr. Andi.
A short while later, the on-call pediatrician appeared in recovery. Mr. Andi continued to stare straight ahead at no one and nothing, while I asked questions. I could see the apprehension in her face before she spoke the words, “Your baby may have Down syndrome.” I seized on the word “may” because it hinted at its unspoken opposite – “may not.” I hoped that it wasn’t true, but I wanted to know. I didn’t want to hang my hopes on a slim chance.
I asked her directly what she meant by “may” – did that mean she was pretty sure that he did, or that it was just a possibility? I could see before she spoke that her use of the word “may” was merely her way of cushioning the blow before the test results made it official.