Monday, March 15, 2010

Before and After

A year ago this past Friday, I went to my OB appointment for my weekly check up. I was 37 weeks pregnant. I picked my husband up on the way as he was still at work and in the middle of an important meeting. We were both excited to hear the baby's heartbeat and make sure things were still running smoothly. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the baby's heart. We had been having premature atrial contractions (better known as PACs) for a few months which made it sound like the baby's heart was skipping a beat. What it actually meant was that one end of the baby's heart was pounding a split second faster than the other side so the other half would have to pause every so often to catch up. I had undergone a consult by a neonatal specialist and was assured that not only was this perfectly normal, but that the condition typically corrected itself at birth so there was nothing to worry about. However, on this day, in addition to the hear skipping a beat every so often, the heart rate would also slow way down after each pause. Instead of the usual 150-155 beats per minute, it would drop between 70-80 beats per minute. My OB was naturally concerned and put me on a fetal monitor in order to better assess the situation. After 15-20 minutes of monitoring, during which time my husband repeatedly got up and checked the readout to see if it was improving (and increasing my anxiety with each check), she came back in to talk to us about her concerns. She advised that our options were to continue monitoring the baby which would mean being admitted to the hospital or to deliver the baby right then. Essentially - I would be staying at the hospital either way. The only real question was, would I have an infant as my room mate? While discussing the pros and cons of an early delivery, she explained that boy's lungs mature faster than girls so we would likely not have a problem. I don't know that we even heard the part about the lungs, we were so focused on the news that we were having a boy! She tried to cover herself quickly by saying that she assumed it was a boy but didn't have the chart in front of her and didn't actually know for sure. We didn't care at that point, we were too full of anticipation and nerves to even acknowledge she was in the room much less what she said. I was excited to meet our son and the idea of being admitted to the hospital for another 2 weeks was somewhat unappealing so we decided to go ahead to the delivery and have an emergency c-section.

Our doctor was very calm (externally anyway) and walked us across the building to the hospital to be admitted. And that's when I went from excited momma-to-be to human pin cushion! I had to undergo all of the necessary pokes and prods in between hollering at my husband to contact my work as I would not be returning for my going away party the next day. After several minutes of paperwork, IV's, catheters, and wardrobe changes, I was able to walk to the operating room and get up on the table for my spinal block. Most people probably cringe at the idea of a spinal block or epidural but due to a previous neurological concern, I had experienced a spinal tap before so I wasn't feeling too anxious about it. Clearly I was too cocky! When the anesthesiologist put the needle in, I felt a jolt up my spine that made me jump and I jerked a little. Just a tiny hair. Just enough to make it so the spinal block only took on one side of my body! But the anesthesiologist wasn't concerned. He just loaded me up with more drugs than a Grateful Dead show. I was somewhat aware of what was going on but kept slipping in and out of what was happening. At some point, I realized a very nice doctor had come and sat next to me to hold my hand. After a minute or two of him asking me how I was, I realized I was married to him. In my defense, the mask and scrub hat also made my husband hard to identify. During this haze, I felt a burning pain in my abdomen and I let out a moan. Had I not been so high, it might have been closer to a yelp. After that, things got really fuzzy and all I remember is my doctor vaguely saying "She can feel that. Put her under NOW!" There was a mask over my face and I drifted off.

Sometime later which seemed like minutes but was probably closer to an hour, I came to. There was a horrible pain in my throat and it felt like I had swallowed glass. I felt woozy and couldn't speak. A woman was in my ear saying "You had a boy! Does he have a name?" I croaked "Ben" and she said "Oh good! That's what his dad thought but he wasn't sure." My sweet husband had told them he wanted to wait for me to wake up and make sure the name we picked was still the one I wanted! I was wheeled to recovery where the nurse taunted me with ice chips. She so graciously offered as soon as I got there but then promptly forgot. Lucky for her, my throat was too sore and I was still groggy or I might have had something to say about that. After what seemed like an extremely long wait, I was wheeled to my room. And, just a few minutes later, my son was wheeled in too so we could finally meet face to face.

He was so small! Ben weighed in at only 6lbs 8oz and 18 inches. I could not stop grinning at him and I could not believe that he was mine. I felt a bit of an initial shock mainly because I hadn't really been "present" at his birth and I struggled to comprehend that this tiny little human had just come from me. He was on a heart monitor but the nurse assured me that it was just a precaution and he was fine. And then, miracle of miracles - I finally was able to hold and snuggle my tiny bundle! From that moment on, I was someone's mother. That one moment in time felt like it segmented my existence in to two parts. Everything that happened up to me up until that point was neatly categorized as "before" and everything since has been "after". As in "Before I had Ben..." or "After becoming a mom..." My life has been turned on it's head and shaken about like a snow globe. But, like a snow globe, the result has been truly beautiful.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Miles. My world truly does begin and end with you.

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