how she entered the world, part one
I lost track at twelve.
There were at least twelve people in the room when I laid down on the table, though I know a few more joined us before they got started. I actually think there were fourteen. But that doesn’t include the NICU team waiting to whisk away the baby, including at least six pediatricians, nurses and a respiratory technician. The rest of them? They were there for me.
The whole morning was surreal. Ever since being admitted the day before, I suppose I knew there was a chance they’d want to deliver our baby even earlier than expected. Because of the serious risks of dangerous preterm labor and an even more complicated procedure due to complete placenta previa and accreta, my doctor had a plan. First she had planned to deliver at 36 weeks, then 35, then 34. After she delivered the baby, she would take my uterus. She didn’t think it could be saved without too much blood loss, and it would be beyond repair anyway. I decided it was a fair trade.
When the plan was finalized, we were still nine days away. Or so I thought.
On September 2, I was 33 weeks and 3 days (about 7.5 months) pregnant, and I had been bleeding for 24 hours. I was stable but they had told me the day before, when I was admitted, that I would not be going home until the baby was born. The team agreed that since the bleeding had tapered, we could try to wait it out on bedrest until my planned delivery date a week later. That would give the baby another week to develop, thereby shortening her stay in the NICU, and us more time to prepare. I was settling in for a week of hospital bedrest.
It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend. That morning, the team did rounds at about 7:00am. When they learned I was still bleeding, they changed their minds. They wanted to avoid an emergency procedure which would be more risky for me and the baby. Because of the anticipated complications, they wanted a full team of specialists available, not the skeletal staff that would be working over the holiday weekend. I also wanted to avoid general anesthesia, if possible, to be awake for the birth of our baby.
We would not wait another week. Our baby would be born that morning. Within hours.
I couldn’t fight back the tears as I realized she would come a week earlier. More premature. More risks. More time in the NICU.
Mac was at home, over an hour away, and it was nearing rush hour so it would take him much longer to get to San Francisco. When I called to tell him about the change in plans, he was having a rough morning with Jaye and he could barely hear me. I tried to remain so calm. He sounded overwhelmed, panicked.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m fine. We’ll wait for you,” I assured him. “Just come. Come now.”
Mac had already packed up snacks and activities to keep Jaye occupied. While I was on bedrest, she would play in my room and he would take her around the hospital — after all, we had done this five weeks ago when I was admitted for spotting at 28 weeks. But now this was the baby’s birth day, and everything changed. He arranged to drop off Jaye at my aunt and uncle’s and she had a playdate with her cousins. While I would have loved for Jaye to have been there for the birth of her little sister, we had no choice. We knew she’d be in good hands.
By the time Mac got there, my IVs were already in place. I had been briefed about what was supposed to happen. He had not. I had already done some deep breathing to help me focus, to calm down.
I was worried about the baby. Mac was worried about me.
Although I had drafted a birth plan, it all went out the window with the preterm delivery. This baby’s birth would be yet one more thing beyond our control. Still, I made it clear that I wanted to be awake for her birth, even if they had to knock me out and escort Mac out to finish the procedure afterwards.
While my doctor was not on duty, the attending surgeon was highly senior and skilled in complicated deliveries. He looked old to me, and I’ve never had a male ob/gyn. When I expressed some discomfort, I was assured he was known as legendary, that he brought calm to the floor when he was in charge. He was also known to be quick, so fast they thought he might finish before my spinal wore off, meaning I wouldn’t even need general anesthesia, which was my preference if it could be avoided. I didn’t want to be asleep or in a fog after the birth; I just wanted to hold our baby as soon as possible.
I’ve had so many surgeries that I thought I knew what was going to happen. I had no idea.
Mac arrived just after 10am, about an hour before our daughter was born. I saw fear in his eyes, panic. I can only imagine what he went through to get there. He had been worried about an emergency situation, even though I said I was fine. He hugged me tight.
“Our baby is about to be born,” he said. “Please don’t make me cry,” I replied. “I have to be able to breathe.”
They were getting ready for us, so we didn’t have much time together. Soon the nurses came and walked me down the hall to the operating room. They would come for Mac once the spinal was placed.
Our baby — still this thought seemed so strange — was about to enter the world.
To be continued…
For part two, read this.