Two years ago a phlebotomist came into my room at 5 am. She inserted a needle into the crease of my elbow like someone had once every few days for the last two weeks. I was amazed they were still able to find a vein. Nothing stands out about that particular needle stick. It melts together with all the rest of the early morning wake up calls that involved someone standing over me with a needle and vacutainer.
The day before, my arm had been filthy with tape residue. A conveniently-timed blown IV gave me an opportunity to shower without my arm taped inside a plastic bag. So that morning, she taped the gauze to my mostly clean skin. After she left the room, I ordered my breakfast. Omelets or pancakes, most likely. Maybe both. The hospital food was surprisingly edible but the breakfast was truly delicious.
Time moves differently in the antepartum ward. Sleep is stolen in small chunks, the MAs and CNAs came in every three hours to check my blood pressure. The doctors, interns, and nurses came in at times that were only vaguely predictable. A respiratory therapist had to come up to give me my inhaler twice each day. The inhaler I had been successfully using for most of my life. The hospital has weird rules, sometimes.
I was in the big room — with hardwood floors and a mini fridge, it was a room that meant you were in it for the long haul. 2.5 weeks down, with a goal of another 2.5 weeks to go. We were aiming for 34 weeks, which would mean a baby a few days before my 34th birthday.
Best laid plans, and all
After I ordered my breakfast, I rolled over and tried to catch a little more sleep before whatever torture awaited me next. It turned out to be a nurse, coming in to tell me the doctor didn’t want me to eat breakfast until after I talked to him.
Also. Fuck you, I’m 31 weeks pregnant and hungry.
They were kind enough to intercept my tray, so I wouldn’t have to smell pancakes and omelets and syrup and toast and I was practically drooling just thinking about it. I dreamed about that tray sitting at the nurse’s station, full of orange juice and butter.
The doctor came in and laid it out for me — bloodwork was going downhill. Baby’s condition was unlikely to change based on one or two days at this point, unlike a micro preemie where every hour counts. The goal was to get us both out of the hospital alive, which I had to admit did seem like a pretty useful plan. Since my blood pressure was high but stable, he left the decision up to me whether we did the c-section that afternoon, or waited until after the 5 pm bloodwork came back. Basically, I asked which would mean I could eat soonest. If we waited for the 5 pm bloodwork, I could eat breakfast and then fast for the rest of the day. Sold!
I asked my
waiters nurses to bring me my tray. It had been sent back to the kitchen, so I would have to wait yet another hour to eat. I hated everyone at this point, so a nurse brought me a snack from the magical snack cabinet. Eventually, I got my breakfast and stuffed my swollen face with it.
Charlotte came to hang out with me and help me pass the time. I was a whiny mess.
“I’m so hungry! And thirsty! Why can’t I at least have a drink of water? I’m going to DIE OF STARVATION AND I THOUGHT THE POINT WAS TO NOT KILL ME?!”
“Rhiannon. It’s 10:30 am.”
And so it went
Around 6 pm the bloodwork came back and showed that it had not changed much since that morning. On the other hand, my blood pressure had suddenly started trending higher.
The doctor who came on duty at 7 pm said, “What, exactly, are we waiting for? Are we waiting for this to become an emergency?”
I think the doctor that morning had known that we would end up doing the c-section that day, no matter what. I like to think he gave me the choice to let me have some sort of control in the matter. In a situation where everything was being done to me, I can’t overstate how important it was that I was given some reigns.
So we wheeled me through the maze of the hospital down to the OR. I was poked, numbed, and shaved in a freezing cold room. I’ve written the story of the c-section itself already, so I’ll jump ahead.
Rowan was born on April 28, 2015, breathing without assistance, APGARs of 8 and 9, and weighing in at 3 pounds, 3 ounces.
And today he is two
He has been constipated and miserable for the last few days, so his birthday present from me this morning was a glycerin suppository. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROWAN!
He’s cranky today. I can’t say I blame him.
His language is gaining speed. He has new words each day and is starting to pick them up without us purposely teaching them to him. He is still at the stage where he knows what he wants but doesn’t know how to say it. This also makes him cranky.
I’m guessing he weighs around 25 pounds.
I’ve spent the morning looking at my Facebook On This Day at all of the comments and photos. It is weird to see photos of Rowan that were posted by me on Facebook before I had actually even really seen him. Pictures shared with me by my family, while I stayed in my room hooked up to magnesium.
It’s like there is another birthday tomorrow — the day I got to hold him and see more than a glimpse of his face for the first time. The moment they wheeled me to his isolette and I just sat, watching him for a minute. I was scared. He was so tiny.
Just before I finally held him, I watched Zach change his teeny diaper. We have both changed a lot of diapers in the last seven years, but I’m not sure any have felt as foreign as that one. So many cords, so many wires, such a tiny diaper taking up so much real estate on the tiny baby.
Charlotte and Steven did a good job keeping everyone up to date on Twitter the day of his birth, which I really appreciate. It is both neat and anxiety-producing to go back and reread those tweets. The live Tweets from Lorelei’s birth are below the ones from Rowan’s and the feeling I get from reading the two different births in real time is starkly different.
The pain this year is different. It’s the shadow of the original. Not erased, not forgotten. Sometimes it startles me. Sometimes is creates shapes on the wall that catch my eye and feel real and urgent. Then I remember they are really just tricks of light and memory.
The emotional scar is a mirror of the physical scar from Rowan’s entry to the world – both numb and tender at the same time. I’m guessing they will both always be that way.
The tiny baby who could fit inside my shirt with room to spare now takes up my whole lap. He lays his head on my breast as his legs spill down my torso and rest on the arm of the chair.
He loses the “actual” and “adjusted” descriptors at two. The specter of his prematurity will always be there — on school records, hospital forms, and as a simple statement of fact. There will still be issues that leave me wondering if prematurity is ever far away.
Rowan is just… two.