DH and I were both clinging to some sense of normalcy, so instead of going through the emergency room, DH dropped me off at the regular hospital entrance while he parked the car in the garage across the street. I trudged inside by myself, gritting my teeth and stopping every few steps to catch my breath. Surrealy, people milling in the halls smiled, assuming I was in regular labor. DH caught up with me while I was getting set up in L&D triage. A few minutes into monitoring they decided we were in trouble, and what had been a very quiet room exploded with activity as half a dozen nurses and doctors descended on my curtain area. An IV was inserted, medical history taken, consent forms signed. They feared rupture or possibly placental abruption and wanted to do a stat c section. Amazingly, despite the grimness of what they suspected, they said DH could be present in the OR. He kissed me hastily as we separated so DH could get dressed in scrubs.
"What did you say your name was again?" I sputtered to the on-call OB as she steered the gurney around several tight corners into the OR. (I'll call her Delivery Doc here.) I at least wanted to know her name, considering what she was about to do.
Delivery Doc reintroduced herself and apologized for the rush while simultaneously continuing to move rapidly around the OR, moving trays and equipment into place. Several nurses were doing the same thing. One of them helped me crouch over my big belly and hold still while anesthesiologist administered the spinal block. Soon the warm, fuzzy numbness spread up and down from the needle in my back. It felt so good to not be in pain anymore!
The anesthesiologist complimented me on being so calm under the circumstances. But I wasn't calm. Everything was happening so quickly I felt stunned and several steps behind the action. They put up a sterile drape and judging by the tugging, I knew the surgery had already begun, and that they were not waiting for DH to arrive. Then I heard Delivery Doc say, "It's a rupture. The baby's feet extrude through the top of the uterus into the abdomen. Membranes are broken."
That's when I lost it. The room spun as I craned my neck in an effort to somehow see what was going on beyond the drape. "What? What is happening??"
The anesthesiologist tried to quiet me down. He stood up from his stool near my head and looked over the drape. "Yes, I can see the baby's feet sticking through the top of the uterus. I'll have to order some blood as a precaution in case you need a transfusion," he said. "But I'm hoping we won't need to use it. The bleeding doesn't look so heavy right now, which is a good sign."
I realized DH was now at my side. "They said my scar ruptured, " I blubbered. "Can you look and tell me what's happening?"
Ever the trooper, poor DH peeked over the drape as requested. But after a few moments he turned back to me. "I have no idea what I'm looking at," he confessed.
Then, voice thick with relief, Delivery Doc announced, "Wabi your baby is kicking and screaming at me as I'm taking her out!" Suddenly there was a thin, high-pitched mew, like the littlest kitten. And a nurse popped around the edge of the drape holding a baby -- my baby!
She was red-faced and crying in perturbed little bleats. She seemed so annoyed and bewildered at being wet and naked in that cold, bright room. I instantly felt she might be all right.
"Just look at her," said DH, astounded.
The nurse took the baby across the room for cleaning and observation. After a few minutes she was deemed healthy and stable enough to be handed off to DH. In her tightly wrapped blanket, she looked tiny to me -- several pounds lighter and almost five inches shorter than Big A was at birth. But then again, Big A came into the world ten days past her due date, not five weeks early. I reminded myself that for her age, she was actually pretty big.
Since I couldn't put my arms around the baby while lying on the table, DH held her cheek to cheek with me. Her eyes were shut and she kept pursing her sweet little lips like she was trying to figure out exactly what had just happened.
"Me too," I thought, "Me too."
Delivery Doc was still working hard on the other side of the drape, trying to stop the bleeding and repair my uterus. Occasionally I'd catch part of the discussion regarding suction, irrigation, or sutures. But in a room full of strangers where I was cut down the middle and naked everywhere else save for a few drapes, I now felt like it was just me, DH, and our baby in the world. I could feel DH's hands pressed up against my shoulder as he helped me cuddle up to our little girl. Our three faces formed an intimate circle. I knew that the hell that had just broken loose would have some long-term physical and emotional costs. But I would take the costs. At that moment all I felt was elation at seeing my little girl for the first time. It was awesome to be alive and amazing to see our baby. It was the world's best day ever, as far as I was concerned.
"Let's name her A____," I said. And DH agreed.
After awhile they took Little A to the nursery for a few more tests and DH tagged along, saying he'd see me later. Things were calmer in the OR now. People began to chat. I stared up into the blue void of the sterile drape and suddenly felt kind of bored. I wondered how long it would be until I could see Little A again. I tuned back into what the nurses and the doctors were saying.
"... walked herself into the hospital with a ruptured uterus," one of them said. Another responded, "Patient must have an extremely high pain tolerance." To which I piped up with, "Oh no, it really hurt a lot." And that made Delivery Doc laugh.
After everything we'd gone through, DH and I both felt my postpartum stay in the hospital seemed like a vacation. Sure, we were getting up every two hours around the clock for pumping and finger feedings. But in between those feedings, we could really rest for the first time in eons. The worry that stalked us for so long was gone, and in its place was the cutest little baby we'd ever seen, plus chocolate treats and baby gifts from visitors. Really, it was better than a vacation in the sense that you usually don't get handfuls of percocet every six hours on the Love Boat. Little A did have trouble breast feeding and regulating her body temperature at first, as well as some jaundice. But these were completely surmountable problems. Also, it turned out that recuperating from the c section was a lot easier than the last month of the pregnancy had been. (Thanks again, percocet!)
Still, some comments we received in the hospital left DH and I rattled. Doctors and nurses involved in our c section would stop by my room and seem so happy to see how we were doing. "I'm so glad you came in when you did," everyone said. That was nice. But quite a few also added, "Not to freak you out, but people die from what you had." Which is something that can only going to freak you out quite a lot, especially when person after person keeps saying it.
I mentioned what was happening to our beloved family pediatrician when she stopped by to see the baby one day. "This is making me a little paranoid," I admitted.
My kids' pediatrician and I have a very informal report. (For example, her reaction when she found out about my uterine rupture was "Fucking SHIT, dude!") I count on her to give me the straight story. She rolled her eyes.
"What is wrong with people? Obviously you don't need to hear that over and over," She said. "But look, to be honest, what they are saying isn't an exaggeration. I was talking to my husband about your case the other day, too. He's also a pediatrician, and we both were saying that usually the outcome is not nearly so good." She smiled at Little A and me. "But I don't think anyone wants to freak you out. People are just marveling at how lucky you are."
Lucky. Ever since we suspected something was wrong with our Trisomy 18 pregnancy the year before, nothing made me feel remotely lucky. If anything, I felt like probability's bitch, so rare and strange were the problems that kept arising as we tried to have another baby. If someone would have told me that just one week shy of my D&E anniversary (51 weeks to the day) I would again come so close to losing what is surely my last baby, in addition to nearly dying myself ... Well, I might have believed them, such was the funk I was in. But I would not have believed that both the baby and I would end up ok despite all that. Never.
This is but one of the many gifts my little daughter came bearing. The gift of lightness, the gift of hope. The gift of being lucky once again. Because I truly do feel lucky and so incredibly grateful. I really needed some sweet to go with my bitter, and now I've got it.