Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Yesterday my first born turned 5

The pregnancy really wasn’t that hard. I had a couple of food aversions and didn’t enjoy not being able to ever sleep on my back or DRINK!, but other than that it was semi-effortless. I ran until about 4 and half months when I spotted one morning. That was the end of that, so I joined the Y and used their elliptical machine for exercise. It was pretty hilarious watching me try to coordinate all my limbs on one of those puppies. As my belly grew, I made friends with all the regulars and blindly proceeded along NEVER realizing what a child would do/bring (depending on my mood) to my life.

Chris and I lived together for a year before we were married, so it wasn’t such a reach for us to get pregnant soon after our wedding. I know six weeks doesn’t sound like long, but it seemed reasonable at the time. My mom had been diagnosed with cancer over Thanksgiving weekend 1998 and we conceived Labor Day 1999. I wasn’t sure about my mom’s future and really wanted my kids to know their grandmother. Oh – and I was 35 years old - not exactly an ideal time to start a family. At my first appointment the doctor marked “AMA” on my chart – “advanced maternal age”. I was surprised not realizing that it was, in fact, a tad risky to have a baby later in life. Following in my mother’s footsteps, I started a couple of careers, and did some self discovery, before settling down. My mom was 37 when she had me and 38 with my brother.

We lived our first year of marriage in an apartment, but closed on the house of our dreams on March 10, 2000. One week later we started demolition of the first floor of this circa 1895 Victorian. It was another overwhelming task that we jumped into blindly. We rented a large dumpster and took all the walls down, rewired, stripped all the woodwork, discovered doorways and two fireplaces, etc. It was exciting, but extremely hard work. Through out this adventure, we both continued to work full time and do our remodeling evenings and weekends. The week before we were to move in, I had so much painting to do that I even called in sick one day. I still remember the neck and back ache I had from painting three coats on the 9 ½ foot ceilings.

Broke from all the expenses of this time period, we chose to move ourselves from the apartment over a weekend with a pick up truck. The Monday morning after our big move, while trying to pry my eyelids open, Chris informed me that we were going to do our final cleaning at the apartment that night after work. I begged to wait until the weekend, “…it’s Memorial Day – we’ll have three full days to work on it.” No, he wanted it done and over with. So after work we trudged back over to the apartment to clean. We forgot the mop and I had to scrub the large kitchen floor and the bathroom floor on my hands and knees. It was an awful end to an awful project. The stress of the nine weeks of daily remodeling and the move had left me exhausted and overwhelmed. I didn’t think I could take another challenge. We collapsed in bed that night early about 9:00 PM. I decided to read a little out of my What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I noticed some wetness. Chris was snoring and I didn’t know what to think. I ran to the bathroom and it stopped. After about 40 minutes I finally woke him up and told him that I thought my water had broken. We both laughed. Seriously, that was our first reaction. It was as if God was playing an incredibly HUGE joke on us. The hallway was cluttered full of boxes. It was difficult to find anything including my doctor’s phone number. I don’t use pads, so I started shoving socks in my underwear. They were in my dresser which I hadn’t packed into boxes. I was so thankful for those socks! At about midnight, we stopped laughing and decided that I had indeed broken my water. Chris ran down to the car and found an old appointment card from my doctor’s office and we called. An annoyed OB on call grumbled to me that I should go straight to the hospital. I didn’t have a bag packed – hell, I couldn’t even find a small bag or suitcase at that point. I grabbed a couple CDs and a magazine and we walked the two blocks to the hospital. It was a nice spring night and we slowly started accepting that we were not going to get a break.

I was dilated to three and had minimal contractions. Chris and I sat in the birthing room for about an hour before the nurse came and told us to nap. It was about 2 AM and my body wasn’t really reacting quickly. I woke up about 5 AM and noticed slightly larger contractions. More like uncomfortable cramping that came and went. I walked the halls while Chris continued to sleep and then about 6 AM, I layed down again and organized my CDs into groups - blues music for when I woke up a bit, Sarah Mclachlan for when I needed calming, etc. I don’t remember being nervous. I think it was just one more thing I had to get through.

My doctor showed up at 6:30 AM. He checked me and told me that I hadn’t dilated anymore so he was ordering Pitocin to start more aggressive labor. Sure enough, when the nurse came at 7:20 AM to administer it, my contractions were stronger. I told her, but she assured me that this was a doctor’s order and she was just following through. By 8 AM I could feel stronger labor starting, but it still wasn’t too bad. The nurse would buzz in and out and everything seemed fine as she changed the tape on the machine for the monitor they had strapped to my stomach. When she replaced the tape and started the machine back up, I noticed her stop and stare at the screen. It read “50”, as in beats per minute. Usually it was around 120. During the next ten minutes, my entire world turned upside down. The room began to fill with women. I was told to lay down flat and there were about four or five different hands up my you-know-what trying to determine what was going on. No one was talking, but the panic, confusion and fear in the room was completely evident. They were trying to determine if the “50” on the monitor was the heart rate of me or my baby boy. I remember that someone shaved my pubic hair and that was when everything stopped for me. No one could explain verbally, for some reason, but Chris and I both knew that something really bad was going on. Finally, after what seemed like hours – and was really only about 10 minutes – a woman popped her head in the room and asked if they needed anything, “Yes, get a doctor!” That was it. Full anxiety and panic attack ensued. I had to remain calm, though, because Chris was a basket case. As we had never experienced any real trauma together before, I didn’t realize that his reaction in these types of situations is to freeze. He became a complete deer-in-the-headlights bumbling, freaked out fool. Loving and caring, but not too assertive. He held my hand, but that was about all he was capable of.

When my doctor arrived, he checked me and it was determined that the heart rate was indeed the baby’s. He was not getting enough oxygen. My doctor moved things around and moved the umbilical cord which was bent in half, like a hose, and trapped between my baby’s head and the birth canal wall. This brought the heart rate back up to a normal number. My doctor stayed in my room for about 30 to 40 minutes watching the monitor and not speaking. It was as if I was in a dream and these events were just whirring by. I had no control, so I just gave in and went blank. At about 8:55 AM, he checked me again and his glove came out bloody. The decision was made to indeed go ahead with a C-section. He told me that every time I had a contraction, the baby’s heart rate would plummet again with recovery after the contraction. He was worried, though, that since I was so far from delivering that the baby wouldn’t make it through the entire delivery. We were fine with this decision. I have to be honest – I wasn’t terribly upset to learn that I wouldn’t have to vaginally deliver this huge kid. To me, a C-section seemed like an easier option. All I wanted to know was the whereabouts of my anesthesiologist. I kept asking for Saied.

One of our new neighbors, Saied, came with a HUGE reputation for pain free deliveries. He knew his drugs well and was an expert at administering and monitoring an epidural. I wasn’t going anywhere without him. It took him about 10 minutes to answer his page, but soon he was there to calm us down. His ability to bring clarity and peace to the situation was something I will never forget. He was sweating profusely and apologizing. Apparently he got lost in the hospital looking for a stairway that wasn’t locked due to construction in the building and the lack of working elevators. It was the comic relief we needed watching him apologize while panting hard and trying to act professionally through it all.

As they wheeled me into the operating room, I realized that this was my first surgery along with my first stay in the hospital. I became even more nervous – if that was possible. The feeling or tone in the room from all the doctors, nurses and assistants was one of an emergency. Saied kept me as calm and sane as he could, but Chris and I knew that something was really wrong.

They spread me out on the table and there I was in all my glory in front of my new neighbor. He kept me informed by doing a play-by-play of the surgery and held the pan as I dry-heaved over and over again. He explained that I was nauseous because they were moving my internal organs around. Nice.

The baby was pulled out at 9:20 AM. They immediately asked us for his name and it was the beginning of the inadequacy we have felt as parents since that moment. We didn’t have a name for him yet. In fact, even though we knew he was going to be a boy for about four months, he was Baby Boy for about three days.

Amazingly his Apgar scores were great and he was a crying, normal newborn. I later learned that my placenta had detached and he had been in serious trouble. The realization of all that had happened that early morning didn’t hit us until days later. Also, over the years I have learned that he could have died. None of this was told to me during or after his birth. I am a little annoyed, but think it may have been the final straw during this time in my life. I was being protected in the bubble I call my naiveté.

During my three days in the hospital, Chris had many crises at work and wasn’t able to come up to my room much. It was a hard time. My parents were in Minnesota waiting to come until after I was back home, and my mother-in-law was in my new house unpacking. It was enough to make me check out a day early. The thought of her setting up my kitchen, for example, was more than I could take. I had this incessant need to be in control and GET HOME before she did something horrible like put the wooden spoons in the wrong drawer.

There are forms they give you in the hospital for lots of things. Knowing how disorganized and flaky I can be, we knew we should have a name for our son before we left the hospital or he wouldn’t have a legal name until he was about 13. One evening late at night, when Chris carved out some time, he and I tackled naming the baby. We did what any two overstressed new parents would do – we drew names from a hat. We threw in Liam, Quinn and Harrison. Best two of three and that would be the name. First draw was Liam. Second was Quinn. We both looked at each other and tossed Liam right away. It suddenly hit us that this incredibly elegant Irish name DID NOT go with our incredibly long, difficult and hard-to-say Polish last name. Next, we drew Harrison. After that it’s all a blur, but I do know that we decided to save Quinn for a girl because we liked it so well, but also liked Harrison. It was pretty funny, but very effective.

So here I sit five years later - a new house, another baby, a new city, a new career and a much more solid marriage. Harry has been through a lot of our growing and experimentation as parents. He is an amazing, smart and sensitive young boy. Watching him last night open his presents was pure joy. I knew how much he would like his new castle with knights, horses, etc. and he didn’t let us down. He squealed and hasn’t stopped playing with it since. At 11 PM last night he was still awake and smiling. That makes it all worthwhile.

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