I woke up the morning of October 30th feeling gross – I’d had a minor headache for a couple days, I had no energy, I just felt cranky. I was 33 weeks and 6 days pregnant; I didn’t expect to feel like dancing. I dragged myself to work uneventfully, mostly on time. I had been at my desk about two hours when my office mate offered to take my noon meeting so I could go home and sleep. I agreed, printed out the agenda for her, told my boss, and left.
I don’t remember the drive home; I know I made it safely. The next clear memory I have is Hawthorne arriving home to find me on the couch watching the Great British Baking Show at full volume, cramming fistfuls of popcorn into my mouth, and sobbing. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but had been cognizant enough to have been taking serial blood pressures, which were rising – the last being 160/102.
Hawthorne ushered me to the birth center, where things happened quickly. I needed to be at a higher level of care that had a NICU, just for precaution. The midwife told me that it would hopefully be just for monitoring, and they would see me at my scheduled appointment next week. They gave me IV antihypertensives and started me on magnesium for preeclampsia.
I was transferred to University of Vermont Medical Center by ambulance.
I still felt miserable, but I don’t remember being particularly worried. Once I got settled, a small team of doctors came in to talk; one of them said brightly, “So, it’s time to meet your baby!” – and that’s when the world slowed down like an old VHS cassette where the tape has been stretched out.
They explained things; what preeclampsia symptoms I had, what that could mean for the baby, the recommendation and benefits of preterm delivery. I agreed with everything. Hawthorne noticed that I was not asking a single question – which is unheard of.
Time began to meld together, a real-life interpretation of Dali’s famous melting clocks. I remained steadfast in my desire for a vaginal birth. Concerns about the baby’s position were voiced; I received steroid shots to aid in lung development.
In the morning, one of the maternal fetal medicine doctors performed an ultrasound himself.
The baby was breech, and if I insisted on an induction, I would need to have an epidural and a version performed. They would need to turn the baby head-down from outside my body. I agreed.
The operating room table was cold, and I could see bootie-covered shoes. Later, Hawthorne told me everyone was prepared for an emergent C-section if the version went wrong. Everything went right, and labor was induced.
My family arrived, two of my cousins; I remember their presence. I know they took Hawthorne to get food or coffee at some point. Labor was progressing slow; the baby remained head-down but high. I had stalled at 4cm dilated; an electrode was attached to the baby’s head, and one inside my uterus. With this additional monitoring, the Pitocin was increased. The contractions grew stronger, then suddenly the sound of the baby’s heartbeat changed.
The room around me dimmed as I turned my head to look at the monitor to see what was happening, and the doors to my room burst open like they do on TV. My nurse was immediately by my face, lowering the head of the bed down. “Remember I said I would tell you when it was time? It’s time now.” At this point, Hawthorne also told me it was time to accept a C-section, and I agreed. On the way home from the hospital several days later, Hawthorne told me that the baby’s heart rate dropped into the 30s and I had become unresponsive.
Within two hours I was back in the operating room, and terrified.
I have witnessed C-sections before, and have long thought that it was one of the most brutal things that can happen to the human body. The anesthesiologist needed to place another epidural, as mine had been removed at some point. The first attempt did not take, and I felt the betadine swirl over my stomach. They sat me up and re-inserted; this time I was guided down and felt nothing.
The moments between when they disconnected the electrode that let me hear her heartbeat and her birth felt interminable. I didn’t hear her cry; at 8:53 PM they said she was out but I didn’t hear her. Those moments of utter terror will never be forgotten. Then Hawthorne said she was OK. She didn’t really cry; her soft squeaks couldn’t reach me beyond the surgeons doing their work on the other side of the curtain. Then I saw the booties walking toward me, and a tiny baby burrito, my daughter, was laid on my chest. Her eyes were closed, and she had a nasal cannula under her nose. Information started to filter through; she was going to the NICU, her APGAR scores were 7 at 1-minute and 8 at 5-minutes. 4 pounds 5 ounces, 18 inches long.
Tiny, mighty, and alive, looking just like her big brother.
I spent four days in the hospital recovering from surgery and sitting with her in the NICU. Lucy Danger spent 23 days in the NICU and the step-down unit, learning how to bottle-feed and regulate her temperature and heart rate. She came home November 24th in a snowstorm at 5 pounds, 4 ounces. Now ten weeks old, or adjusted one month old, she is weighing in at 8 pounds and is a force to be reckoned with. Every so often a light will go out unexpectedly. About half the time when we say, “Lucy, turn the light back on please,” it comes back on. Coincidence, maybe; but Lucy Danger carries the magic of a starside wild child within her, so we are remaining open to all sorts of wondrous possibilities.