Posts tagged ‘traumatic birth’
As I reflect on the last eight years, I am astounded at both the long road behind us and the longer one in front of us. We’ve come through things I would never have imagined we could face, and I wonder what waits ahead.
Eight years ago today, I was on bed-rest, drinking as much water as I could to help replenish low amniotic fluid. Over the next 72 hours my life would change in an even more dramatic way than I could have ever contemplated. I am thankful I didn’t know what was coming. I went to my OB’s office the morning of the 28th of March to do yet another ultrasound to check the fluid level. I wasn’t scheduled for a c-section until April 10th, two days before Husband’s birthday and two days after my own. We hand-picked that date after an immovable breached baby dictated a c-section was necessary. In our remote town, far off the grid, they scheduled c-sections instead of waiting for labor to commence. Upon looking at the ultrasound results, my doctor sent me to the hospital for an immediate c-section, as the amniotic fluid level was dangerously low. What we didn’t know at the time was that there was also a blood clot in the umbilical cord and the placenta was deteriorating rapidly.
I remember little about C’s delivery – only bits and pieces of things here and there. I don’t remember even seeing C after he was born, as he was taken away almost immediately and put on a respirator. Even then I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. Whether it was the anesthesia or denial, I’m not sure, but I wasn’t particularly worried.
I didn’t see C until he was almost two days old. The first night, I stayed up all night, jittery from the anesthesia drugs, and still not comprehending what was happening. My next vivid memory was a day later – of the nurse rushing into our room at 2 in the morning, asking permission to perform surgery and insert a chest tube. C’s lung had collapsed, she said, and they had to save him. That’s when it hit me. This child could die, and die before I would ever even hold him.
C’s breathing didn’t improve with the chest tube, and the decision was made to med-evac him to Denver, where he could be in a Level III NICU facility. The next morning, in the midst of a blizzard, we prepared for his departure. A minister was brought in to bless C as he lay in his little incubator. I couldn’t hold him, but at least I could touch his head, which still sent all the bells and whistles off while his overloaded system processed the touch.
They arranged for Husband to fly down with C, and we anxiously awaited the arrival of the jet. Upon landing, they had to drive an ambulance 20 miles through the storm to reach our hospital. In came the flight nurses, bringing a life saving drug that was only recently approved for use and was only to be used by one hospital in the state. They started C on nitric oxide right away, and his breathing stabilized somewhat. As they wheeled him out in his little space box, all this equipment attached to him taking up more space than the people involved, I was astounded at the life-saving measures they were able to employ. I watched them go, racing down the hall to the waiting ambulance. My eyes met another parent’s eyes through the window into the family lounge, and we connected through that look. Months later, at a “reunion” for NICU babies, he told me he knew something terrible was happening and was praying that it would be okay.
I thought, during the long and worrisome weeks and months that followed, that C would recover from all of this and we would see it as less than it actually turned out to be. That didn’t exactly happen, but frankly, it’s amazing he survived, and when doctors read C’s history and then look at the child standing before them, they declare a miracle. When I look at it from that perspective, C’s journey through life takes on a different tone. This child, this amazing miracle child, is destined for greater things. I have no idea what his future holds, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be as incredible as his past.
This is one of those times when I wish I could do away with the need for privacy, and just tell you C’s name. It’s a really cool name, a very different one, one that nearly everyone that hears it has never heard it before and will likely never hear it again. It’s a word that has to do with birds of prey. Husband and I picked it because we were looking for a name that had something to do with the outside world, the environment, nature. The name just fit.
Less then 2 days after C was born, the ventilator he was on caused him to blow a hole in one lung, and a nurse rushed into our room asking permission to perform surgery to put in a chest tube. She was in a panic, and without batting an eye or even asking a question, we agreed. She ran out of the room, and we sat, numb with grief. There were so many tense moments, moments where I look back on them and wonder if I really realized how close he was to death, and I’m thankful I didn’t fully realize.
The next day, when C wasn’t improving, the docs told us they wanted to evacuate him to a hospital where they could handle his issues better. The evacuation would involve a 30 minute ambulance ride to a rural airport, then a flight over the Rocky Mountains in a lear jet/air ambulance, followed by either another ambulance ride or a helicopter flight to the hospital in Denver. I remember looking out the window; we lived in a remote Colorado ski town, and I wondered how they could possibly make the trip safely because we were in the middle of a heck of a snowstorm.
While we waited for the weather to clear enough for the plane to make it through, the nurse sent Husband home at 2 a.m. to pack his bags. He would go on the plane with C, and I would follow in a couple of days when I could once again move (I didn’t exactly hop out of bed after the c-section – I’m not sure I hopped anywhere for the next year). As Husband drove home, on a dark, snowy, isolated dirt road, he spotted a bird of prey flying in front of his car for a few moments before it took off toward the river. He took it as a good sign, a sign that C would survive all he had yet to go through. What’s in a name, you ask? Everything.
Some dear friends had a baby recently; they struggled to conceive and I can’t think of many people who would be better parents than they will be. Their baby is beautiful and the pictures they send are delightful to see. Yet they awaken in me a longing I didn’t even realize was still there. It’s almost a faint memory now, but I do recall the discussion, more by others than by me, about grieving a “normal” birth process. One not caught up by terror and previously unimaginable pain.
I recognize a longing not only for a normal birth experience, but for a normal experience with one’s baby and child as well. When I look at pictures of our friends’ baby N, I see the difference I didn’t recognize at the time C was an infant. We were already a family with autism, one that made adjustments in daily life revolving around C’s needs and his rather precarious health. Despite the joy in this wonderful little person we had, there were many years of concern, worry and fear while we tried to sort through his seeming myriad of issues, both developmental and health related. Any parents’ lives change when they have children, but there’s something exponentially more challenging about having something you don’t yet understand happening to your child.
I wouldn’t wish our frightful birth experience (and the uncertainty that followed) on anyone, and have often said I don’t really want people to understand because it would mean they have lived through it themselves. I was reminded of how difficult it can be to truly understand another’s experience by a different friend whose lovely baby came along a year or so after C. She called me a few days after coming home from the hospital in desperate, tearful sobs, apologizing profusely for not fully being there for us when C was in the NICU. Her son had spent some time in the NICU, and her fear and uncertainty quickly clarified for her the desperateness of what C’s situation (and therefore ours) had been. I felt terrible that she felt terrible, and while grateful each of us could have some empathy for what the other went through, it made me realize we can never know someone else’s experience lest we walk in their shoes.