AfterbirthFriday, February 24, 2012
I feel slightly awkward.
My last post was awful. Just completely awful. I was trying much too hard to meld a load of different ideas into one cohesive post. It didn’t work. I’m leaving it there to remind myself to be humble, and not to force things that don’t come naturally.
Tonight, I’m going to write about something else, totally out of line with any subject matter that’s come previous, but a story that I’ve wanted to tell someone for a long time.
I want to write about my hospital experience, and what happened in the days after Bea was born. This is not a grief remembrance, but for posterity. I have written about my pregnancy in numerous places- here , here , and here . This is a remembrance of her life outside of the womb, and what happened immediately after she died. This will be done in a “stream of consciousness” style, and so may not be grammatically perfect or particularly beautiful, but it will be honest.
I went into labor at 34 weeks, on December 12, 2010. I had begun feeling back aches at about 10 p.m. I was in bed and deep down inside I knew as soon as I started feeling pain, that I was in labor. I ignored it for a half an hour or so. Then I went to use the restroom, and my water broke. Maybe I was unwilling to admit to myself that she was not going to make it to term- I was so unprepared. I thought I had more time to access the photographers and clothiers of mortally ill infants. I had also been told that she could possibly survive if she made it to term. The realization that it wasn’t going to happen that way was crushing. Hope had been what kept me going throughout the pregnancy.
We had to leave my then 7 year old with his older brother. The normal hour long ride to the hospital took only 30 minutes. The contractions were intense and painful during the ride there. I was frightened, because we had been told that Bea absolutely had to be delivered via C-section, because of her short umbilical cord- she could become lodged in the birth canal and cause me to hemorrhage. I did not let on to my husband how quickly the contractions were coming- I didn’t want him to be frightened for me.
I walked into the hospital, fluid gushing down my legs, pain in my back, and my lower half soaking wet. I was embarrassed, and just wanted the whole labor to be over- on the same token, I wanted it to stop. She was living (as far as I knew), but she would most likely not be as soon as she was removed from my body. We made our way to the admitting desk for labor and delivery. It was the only place in the hospital, besides the cafeteria, that has plastic seats. The receptionist and intake coordinator didn’t seem too worried that I was leaking fluid everywhere and that I was making a mess. The calmly filled out our paperwork, and I got a hospital ID bracelet snapped on my wrist.
I’m not sure exactly where they bring laboring women at this big teaching hospital. I was led to a curtained room- much like something in an emergency room. There was a woman laboring quietly next to me. I could not see her, but her husband was standing outside of her curtain. He was an orthodox Jew- I could tell by his clothing, and he was so young. I wondered why they were there- I gave birth in a children’s hospital, so I assume that only people with problems give birth there. They were so young, and he looked so worried- I wondered whether it was because it was the first baby, or because there was something wrong.
Nurses and doctors bustled in and out, hooking me up to machines and tubes. They tried to get Bea’s heartbeat, and couldn’t. They tried again, and again. They called a doctor- and she couldn’t find it.
“I think she’s gone.”
My daughter was going to be born still. Unbreathing and unmoving in my womb. I would never get to see her living. The whole measure of hope that had carried me through the pregnancy was gone. It was devastating. I hated that young woman next to me, for her quiet laboring and concerned young husband.
The doctor tried one more time, to see if the baby was in a difficult position, and miraculously found a heartbeat. My girl was going to be born alive! I lost hope and gained it back in a matter of seconds.
They prepped me for surgery- I recorded Bea’s heartbeat on my phone- three thirty second shots. (I'm still planning on having someone with a little more technical know-how than I have, draw out the sound of her heart, and cut out hospital sounds... just haven't gotten to it yet...)
I was wheeled into the surgery theatre flat on my back, my big belly raised up. My previous births were both vaginal, so surgical birth was a new experience. Surgical anything was a new experience. I had never been in an operating room.
The doctors who delivered Bea were not my normal doctors.
I need to back up a little bit too here- I gave birth on a Sunday. On Friday I had been to see the doctor. I was concerned that my mucus plug had dropped. I had had two children, and knew what this was. I asked for steroid shots that afternoon, but she said that she didn’t think I was in labor, and there were no shots. This could have sped up her lung development, increasing her chances of surviving. I will never get over not having those shots.
Back to the story- the doctors that delivered Bea were not my regular doctors. I knew when I saw them that she wasn’t going to live. They hadn’t had conferences with me, working out the course of treatment. I’m sure that they were competent (well, I assume they were being that this was a major big city hospital- the best in our state for birth defects.) But they were not her doctors.
I can’t remember everything. They numbed me- the anesthesiologist made a comment about a tattoo I have on my back. His assistant held my hand. She was Asian and young, and so kind. She stayed with me until my husband was allowed to enter. He told me later that there was blood all over the floor and the doctor was in my abdomen up to his elbows. I had a classical incision, and my scar runs hip to hip, so that is believable.
They had to pull Bea out of my womb inside of her placenta, because her umbilical cord was too short for them to pull her out and cut it naturally. It was quiet- she did not make a sound. I later found out that she was not breathing, and they had to resuscitate her. The brought her away to be worked on. About 30 minutes later, the neonatologist came back and told us that she wasn’t going to make it. My husband left with her, and the Asian, anesthesiologist’s assistant was back holding my hand.
About 15 minutes later my husband brought her to me. She was alive, but already slipping away.
She was beautiful. I loved her lips, and her tiny fingers. I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t going to make it. A nurse took photos and my husband has a stark, bewildered look in his eyes. I don’t know if I can share that one.
I held her as they sewed me up, and wheeled me into a recovery room. She died in my arms, in the recovery room, one hour and forty seven minutes after she was born.
I’ll continue this tomorrow. It’s late, and there’s so much more.