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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Let's go back a few days...

6:30 AM, Friday, May 7:
Another day. Ugh. Friday. Dr. Keanu would be going out of town at the end of the work day, and I would be anxious the entire weekend not wanting anyone but him to be a part of the delivery. With nothing to do about it my thoughts turned to Elise. Would I finally see the signs I had been looking for, the signs that reveal impending birth? With my son, I had a few days notice. The signs were there, and it was comforting to know the end of a long pregnancy was coming soon. With Elise, I didn't see any of the signs at all, and it was depressing, because I was ready—readier than ready.

When I woke up on Friday I was thinking about these things when I felt something. Nah, I didn't feel anything. Wishful thinking as usual.


Oh that was something! Aside from the full moon on the 4th, there had been nothing prior to my water breaking that gave me any sense that the end of suffering was near. But here it was! And unlike the trickle with my son, the Hoover Dam broke with Elise. I surfed the amniotic wave all the way down the hall alerting loudly to my husband and son that it was most definitely time. And I was freaking. I don't know that I really ever honestly anticipated that the day would come.

The gushing was such that I worried that Elise's head was not entirely blocking the cervix, which made me worry about cord prolapse, a rare but deadly condition. What does "rare" mean to me, the queen of rare illnesses? I know two people who have had cord accidents involving prolapse and it is heartbreaking. And it didn't help that I had stupidly watched a popular hospital drama on TV the night before that portrayed a main character’s baby dying from a cord accident. So I worried. Which means I got back into bed and refused to get out. My husband threatened that he would call an ambulance if I didn't make my way to the van. Gushing. Terror. I stuck a towel between my legs and crawled to the van, somehow getting in without dropping the cord through.

We went to the emergency room where they put me on a gurney and wheeled me up to labor and delivery. Room six! There they checked me out and assured me that cord prolapse would not be an issue in my case. Feeling relieved, I got up and took a shower. When my water broke with my son I had contractions immediately. I wasn't contracting very regularly or very powerfully with Elise, so the shower actually felt great!

I had eaten a huge bag of organic spinach the previous two nights in a row, and let me convey that spinach, for those who aren't aware, is a natural laxative. 'Nuff said. Except that it was green. Green. Kermit the Frog would have been jealous. Dr. Keanu came in the door as I was coming out of the bathroom.

"You'll thank me in a few hours," I said.
"Oh please," said he, "when do I not get pooped on?"
I assured him, "Yes, but if you got pooped on with this poop you wouldn't eat all weekend."
My husband chimed in: "Corn poop would be worse than your nasty ol' spinach poop."
I disagreed: "No way. Corn poop is chunky and solid and you can get away from it. Spinach poop is slimy and green and there is no escape."
"And with that..." said Dr. Keanu as he excused himself from yet another of our family discussions.

Before Dr. Keanu left the room he tried to convince me to start Pitocin. I wanted to wait.
"OK," he reminded, "but I have to leave at the end of my shift 'cause we're going out of town."
I asked him how late he could stay.
"Oh, I'll stay. I'll stay and stay. I will stay as long as it takes! As long as it’s over by 6 P.M.”
"Oh that’s lovely," says I.
"Well," he rebutted, "I'll stay as long as I can without risking divorce!"
I told him he had a choice:
"Look, you can get divorced or you can get killed. Take your pick."
He agreed that maybe he should at least consider staying.

I dilated to 6 cm without drugs. I asked for a birthing ball. This thing rocks. Literally. It's a big ball you sit on and it takes the pressure off your muscles and tailbone, etc. You can rock, bounce, whatever. It opens up the pelvic floor muscles and just relieves the pain of contractions very efficiently. I know, because they made me get in the bed once while I was contracting, and as we say in the South, I like to have died. "Get me back on the ball!"

After about 6 cm all bets were off. Drugs, gimmie drugs. I knew I could do it if I had to or wanted to, but I didn't have to, and I certainly didn't want to. I asked for an epidural and in the meantime some Stadol. Honeychile, that junk 'bout knocked me out. I didn't even get the full dose and down I went. Almost passed out on the nurse, but she got me to the bed before I zonked out. She was knuckle-rubbing my chest, the whole nine yards. My abnormal reaction shocked her a little. My husband explained how sensitive I can be to pharmaceutical intervention. I don't remember much after that. About an hour or so is gone. If I got confabulatory, I don't even want to think about what I may have said.

At some point the anesthesiologist came in and placed the epidural. I remember not being numb and feeling the line going into my spinal space between the vertebrae. It felt very eerie and uncomfortably deep. I jumped. He gave me more numby and re-did it. Perfect—EXCEPT that it went up instead of down: my boobs were numb. My boobs were not having a baby.

The epidural didn't get into my lungs so I didn't have to be tubed, thank God. But the epidural didn't get to my cookie either. I felt everything.

Pregnant women will tell you that the urge to push out a baby is like taking the biggest poop of your life. They're lying. It doesn't feel like that at all. It feels like someone has stuffed a watermelon down your throat and is pushing it out through the other end whether you like it or not, whether you're ready or not. By the time it gets to the "outfield" it feels like it is ripping you in half, peeling you like an orange, and someone else is holding you down saying, "You can't breathe until you push this thing out, and you can’t push it out unless you breathe!" At least, that’s what it feels like to me.

I got cliché near the end of it, feeling that I just couldn't do it anymore. "Yes you can," doctor, student and family lied. They told me over and over how near she was to being born, how close it was to being over.

"Two more contractions," Dr. Keanu said, as I pooped green spinach on him anyway.
"That's what you said 20 contractions ago!" I yelled in fury.
"Look," he said, "if you don't believe me reach down and feel her big ol' head."
I barked back, "I'm going to reach down and feel your big ol' head if you don't get her out of me now!"

A few more contractions, a few more pushes, a few more minutes of calling for my mommy, and out she came.

Then the fun began.

The baby nurses said something was wrong. They let me hold her for a moment but then rushed her to the NICU. She was "juicy." Fluid in the lungs. The cord had been wrapped around her neck and there had been some stress. She hadn't gone without oxygen, but perhaps she sucked up too much fluid and it was preventing her from getting really enough now. I cried as they took her away.

Moments later they came back into the room and told me she would have to stay in the NICU over night. They said I couldn't nurse her because it would cause stress. They said they were going to put her on CPAP. This is not great news. This is what preemies have to go through when their lungs are not mature and they can't breathe on their own. It can cause abdominal distention and even a pneumothorax (lung air leaked into the chest space). It's just not something you want. I think I remember someone even saying something about intubation. I was freaking, seriously crying.

Someone brought a hospital food tray like I was going to eat at that point. "Oh, my baby may be dying, but what I want is a tray of funky hospital peas." I was still crying when someone else came in and said, "And how will you being paying for this?" and asked for my husband's credit card. Wow. Unbelievable. I wish he had said, “Hey, can you give me a minute to process this jacked-up reality before you lunge toward my pocket for cash?”

The NICU nurse came back in and sat on the bed.
"You need to grieve," she said. "You need to be angry for what you have lost."
WHAT?! I thought Elise had died. In hindsight, I suppose she was referring to the loss of the "normal" birth experience that ends with a healthy happy baby and no NICU, but at the time she gave no clear indication of what she meant, and I didn't immediately understand.
"Is she dead? What is happening?!?" I cried.
The nurse said, "No, she's not dead."
I wanted to know if she was going to die then.
"I don't think so, but these things can turn into pneumonia so fast."
There must have been a two-way mirror. Surely this was a practical joke.
"Watch me make this poor couple lose it," I imagined the nurse saying to her friends.
I wanted to know when we would know one way or the other how Elise was doing.
"We're just going to have to watch her," the nurse said.

She left the room. I bawled buckets. We called our pastor and asked him to pray. He called our church family and the chain of prayer was moving. My husband and I prayed alone in the delivery room. After about 30 minutes of praying the nurse entered the room with my baby saying, "All is well. You can take your baby now."

I didn't ask. I didn't want to know. "All is well." Just give her to me! They told me she didn't have to be in the NICU, she could stay with me in my room, go home with me in the regular 48-hour time period, and that her swift resolution had been "atypical." Atypical, ashmypical. Gimmie my baby! Thank you, God! Thank You, God! For whatever reason, our prayers were answered exactly as we had hoped they would be. God is gracious, merciful and good. It isn't always easy to see that, especially when things do not go the way we want them to, but this time "All is well."

I took my baby home on Mother's day. A gift, a treasure, life.

This is my HG diary. Through it you got a tiny taste of what it means to suffer the severe, prolonged, debilitating illness that is severe HG. This account is still insufficient for the simple fact that one cannot fully appreciate what one has not experienced.

The HG in this pregnancy was awful. No, it was worse than awful. It was unthinkable. You will remember a time back in September when I was “talking turkey.”

Shudder. Shiver. My lip starts to quiver.
If one or two things had been in place at just the wrong time I might have done it. There were a few days when, if my doctor at that time (not Dr. Keanu) still performed abortions, I'm almost certain I would have killed my daughter. I asked him if he would consider it for a case like me, but he wouldn't. He said he still believed in abortion but didn't feel "good" about doing it himself. I could have stolen away, aborted at the local mill, but I have a Choose Life tag, and I could just envision that bizarre, shameful image. Think, think, come up with a solution to get me out of this. I could take a taxi. Yes, a taxi. But wait. I didn’t get the D&C when I could have. No. I didn't want to do it. What's all this stuff I've been telling people for all these years if not the truth? And how could I be sorry for the first if I went and did it again? How could I ask to be taken seriously by God or anyone else when I had learned nothing? I had to find some way to tough it out.

A family member wanted me to know early on that I could "do what I needed to do" and everyone would understand. Permission to abort. Horrible permission. This person was trying to be “supportive.” So many people offer this kind of "support." But accepting defeat, particularly when the life of a child rides on the battle, is the antithesis of support. Anything that separates the child from life is not good for the child, and anything that separates the child from the mother is ultimately not good for the mother. My husband, who understands these things, very clearly reminded me that I neither had his permission nor God's. He reminded me that God gives much and requires much.

"Remain in Me, and I will remain in you." John 15:4

I didn't want to abort, but HG is 24-hour torture for months. The flesh was oh-so-weak, and I wanted out of the devastating illness, so I definitely thought about it. My pastor came and talked to me. You will remember that conversation from my diary entry in September. Friends who know me, one of them a staunch abortion supporter, barred me from even thinking of abortion.

And God—wow, I hardly have the words to describe how God stayed with me. God showed me a way out. It was the way through, and it would be hell, but He assured me, promised me that He would never leave me. And He never did. And neither did Elise. And all is well.

Know that all of the support has been so comforting to me and all the prayers have been powerful. None of them were ever in vain. All of them were appreciated, all of them were heard by our gracious, loving Father who, for His purposes, saw fit to bring forth into this world a little, living girl. I thank God most of all for His generous provision, and I thank everyone who blessed me by supporting me through the fire.

May all be well with you.

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