It’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep. I am itchy all over – my nose especially. I know I need to get sleep, because if I don’t I will be a mess tomorrow when the midwife comes to help me express. But my mind is travelling at a million miles an hour. And I keep reaching down to touch you, feel you where you were just hours ago. It’s a strange dichotomy – I miss you being inside me already. I still feel you kicking even though you arrived five hours ago. There’s a sadness to our time in this room together coming to an end. And yet – you are here. Lucy Erin has arrived.
The doctor came in, did a few tests and came back to tell your Dad and I you were on your way. Your Dad’s face turned white as a sheet – he was terrified for you. But I knew the doctor was right. And the voice was telling me he was right. The cramping got a little stronger. There was no TV show, no Thai food. You were on your way.
We asked the midwife about stopping the labour. She gave us Panadol but said that in most cases it wouldn’t work once full blown labour started. In the delivery ward, (these things happen very, very quickly), your Dad called both sets of Grandparents. Ma and Grandad dropped Lachie with Nanna and Pa so they could come in and see me when we called with news – hopefully good news. Your chances today would be a 90% survival rate. Yesterday they were in the 80’s. I hoped against hope you would make till midnight so you could be called a 27 weeker. You damn well deserved it.
At seven o’clock the two doctors came in to give me a cannula so we could be prepared for anything. They scanned me, poked and prodded and came to the conclusion again that I was indeed in labour. I forget their names, but the female doctor, let’s call her Jane, asked about the big giant asterisk on our file. And then I remembered I would have a decision to make.
“It says here you want to have a caesarean?” She said with a mild frown.
I hesitated. “Yes.”
“Do you know what this means?”
Dad was confused and looked at me blankly. I couldn’t look at him yet, I was too ashamed that I had failed.
I sighed and then took a sharp breath in. “It means they can do a c section now or wait to see if they can stave off labour and keep her in longer.” Lisa had a gone a full week after her labour started. That would get us to 28 weeks. Where your lungs will be fully formed. Where your survival rates are almost the same as a full termer. Where we can stop thinking about survival and start thinking about your long term outcomes. Where you will most likely lead a very full happy and perfectly healthy life.
That sat for a little while. “We could stop the labour still?”
“It’s very unlikely but it does happen occasionally.” Jane was straight to the point, kind, and understanding. But it wasn’t her baby. She didn’t have to decide.
“We should wait.”
I didn’t answer. The other doctor, (I think his name was James), was sticking a cannula in my hand for the third time and failing again. It was beginning to hurt and I felt faint. The voice came back and spoke firmly but with compassion. “You need a caesarean.”
“No. There’s so little chance, and we are supposed to have a c section. It’s safer for her remember?”
“Not always.” James answered.
“But for her I mean, not me. If there is something that’s gone wrong a c section is safer. Just a little bit. Like 2 or 3 percent.”
“Yes. More or less.” That same 2 or three percent.
Dad sighed. He is not one to take a gamble. Ever. But he looked at me and said, “Okay. If you think we need to do it, let’s do it. You’ve been right so far.”
I will never be able to tell your Dad just how much I am grateful for his faith in that sliver of a moment. It was all I needed.
Two failed attempts at a spinal tap, and three more cannula jabs later we were in an operating theatre. I passed out once so they monitored my blood pressure carefully. (Your Dad dealt with that surprisingly well).
And suddenly the room was filled with people. Half a dozen or more for me – an anaesthetist, an OB, an assistant, two midwives, someone assisting the anaesthetist and someone monitoring all the tubes I was connected to. The mood was different to my previous C Section, when the nurses and doctors took bets on how big he was, and the OB let out a big, jovial belly laugh when he urinated on my tummy. This was all business.
There were at least a dozen people on the other side of the room preparing a bed for you, buzzing around, checking the monitor and giving instructions for people to be paged. Suddenly I heard a little cry, like a tiny kitten in distress. I hadn’t expected it – they told us you probably wouldn’t make any noise because you would be struggling for breath. As you cried, the neonatologist, (her name is Mary and she met us on our first day here), grabbed you from the lead OB and carried you over to the bed. She walked with great purpose and as she reached the tiny bed a metre or so from mine a gaggle of hands descended on you.
At this point I lost faith and I am so sorry. I couldn’t look at you for more than a second. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. You were so tiny and in that moment I felt the failure of the last month compounded into a heavy weight of disappointment. You were so, so tiny.
As I turned my head away the tears rolled down my face. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I hadn’t in all these weeks been broken, not since that last night at the first hospital. I had promised myself I wouldn’t. But tonight I felt despair at a time I should have felt pure joy.
“What’s wrong?” Dad asked.
“She’s just so small.” I couldn’t say any more.
Mary came over and gave me an update. They were taking her to the NICU. You were born breathing on your own. That was very positive, it doesn’t usually happen. You were doing well. Very well. The doctor would stitch me up and then when you are ready we can visit.
Dad went off with you and the gaggle of hands disappeared with him. Just two people in the room now, a doctor and a nurse. I was pretty woozy. The doctor asked me a few questions, some I can remember, some I can’t.
“There’s significant clotting here.”
“Oh” I just want to sleep.
“There’s a clot bleed here that hasn’t clotted yet.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you had a placental abruption. What were you on bed rest for?”
“Well, that’s not why you went into labour. You had a placental abruption.”
I sensed the gravity of that comment hadn’t sunk in to the depth the doctor had hoped. I was spent. I had nothing left in me to pretend to be polite or interested. All I could think about was how you were coping.
“What do you mean? I was on bed rest for nothing?”
“No. It’s really lucky you were here. And even luckier you had a c section. This could have been a very complicated labour otherwise.”
“Is there any chance I wouldn’t have gone into full labour?”
“No. None. Even if you hadn’t, we would have had to have performed a c section once we realised it was an abruption. It just would have taken longer and maybe been more dangerous.”
Thinking back on that moment, I now realise what it meant. The voice had been right. It has gotten tough. We will be okay. I did need a Caesar.
An hour later I was wheeled in my bed, dopey and dozy, into the NICU and next to your bed. And I saw you, the spirited little sprite that had been dancing around my stomach, in the flesh. For the first time. You were still tiny, so tiny. But you were at peace, and Doctor Mary was telling me you were exceeding expectations. No brain bleeds, breathing well, just a tiny bit of help from CPAP, no oxygen required. It was a blur. But then the nurse said, “Why don’t you put your hand in and touch hers?” And I reached into the humidicrib and touched your tiny little fingers for the first time. And I am in love.
We arrived at our holiday house last night and you were over the moon. It had been a big day and there had been celebrations at kind and at the holiday house, cake, birthday phone calls and endless opportunities for excitedness. Naturally you decided you wanted your birthday to last a lifetime and refused to sleep. At about eight o’clock, (way past your bed time), you burned your finger badly on the bed side lamp and it has blistered. You were so frustrated with yourself you tried to rip the blister off your finger over and over again and nothing would appease you. You slept sitting up with your hand in a bowl of water, but not before midnight. Your Dad commented this morning on how tough you were. Physical pain seems secondary to you compared to the frustration of things not going your way.