Manic Monday: The Ballerina’s Birth, part 2

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Read Part 1 first.

The doctors had prepared us for the risks of induction. We knew about the risks of pre-eclampsia and the possible complications. We thought the risks were over once the birth was done. We’d done it. We’d beaten this strange, potentially-fatal disease of pregnancy. It would all be uphill from here. We were wrong. 

We thought the risks were over. We were wrong.
We thought the risks were over. We were wrong.

Baby Ballerina, my husband, my step-daughter, both my parents, my brother, his wife, their two little ones, and I were all packed into a little hospital room.  The cold gray day outside had turned to a flurry of snow. The nurses were in and out, checking on me, waiting to see if the epidural was wearing off properly, checking the baby,  and smooshing my uterus.  Everything seemed to be going fine.  As all the feeling came back to my legs (and I realized how sore I was), I also realized that I couldn’t put off a trip to the bathroom any longer.  The nurses helped me out of bed, and I waddled to the bathroom.

Blood came gushing, pouring, roaring out of me.  I remember the nurse calling for help, for a wheelchair, then I blacked out.  I came to on my back, moving, the lights on the ceiling of the hospital flashing by. Something was very wrong.  I remember praying to God not to leave my husband to raise our daughters alone.  He’d already lost one wife, who abandoned him with a toddler.  It would be too cruel to make him a widower today.  I remember nothing else until that night–it must have been late, but I don’t know how late.

I woke up back in the same room.  Someone had delivered a beautiful basket of fruit, crackers and cheese from the staff at my school.  The Ballerina was nowhere to be seen.  Just my husband was there, as emotionally and spiritually emptied out as I’ve ever seen him.  My part was the easier part.  I had been unconscious.  I hadn’t endured the horrible waiting and praying, the dread of hearing the worst news, that my family had endured for the past hours.

The problem had nothing to do with the pre-eclampsia.  Instead, the culprit was a cyst on my cervix.  The ultrasound technician had spotted it at my 20-week ultrasound, and it had grown with my pregnancy.  The biggest concern about it had been whether it would interfere with proper dilation and effacing.  Since that part was over, we hadn’t thought it would cause other complications.  Unexpectedly, it prevented my uterus from clamping down and stopping the bleeding properly.  As I held my baby girl and spoke with my family, my uterus was filling up with blood.  I was slowly bleeding to death.  Dr. K said I was only ten minutes from the point of no return.  At that point, I would have lost too much blood for them to save.  As it was, I’d had hours of emergency surgery, a blood transfusion (maybe two–I’m fuzzy on that part), and I was on a high alert watch.  If I started bleeding again, the next step was an emergency hysterectomy.

Much of the next few days blurred together in memory.  I couldn’t eat for a while.  I had broth, ginger ale, and water.  I was on a catheter, and because I couldn’t get up, they put funny little things on my feet that squeezed them periodically to prevent blood clots.  I felt cold, even with the heat turned up.  It was still snowing outside, the dry, powdery snow we get in early fall.  The leaves on the trees were still golden, but they froze while I was there and started turning brown.  The Ballerina was perfect.  I was exhausted.  They took my blood several times in the first twenty-four hours after the surgery.  It felt like every hour, but I’m not sure anymore.  I never had a problem with needles until then; now I can’t watch them stick me.

The time in the hospital after the Ballerina’s birth was spent recovering from my emergency more than bonding with her.  I remember long, quiet stretches punctuated by visits and holding and nursing her.  The staff knew I wanted to feed her myself, not have them give her bottles, and they were very good about making sure I did.  Even when I was discharged, on that Friday–I had been in the hospital since Monday afternoon–the deep, bone-weary exhaustion had not left.  That was from the blood loss and transfusion, I am sure, and my abdomen ached terribly.  I couldn’t believe they were sending me home, even though I was glad to be going.  I was ready for my bed, my house, my shower, and time with my baby. Of course, I got winded walking up half a flight of stairs, so I couldn’t quite believe they actually trusted me to be in charge of a baby. I couldn’t take care of myself. How was I going to take care of this helpless little person?

She was so tiny and fragile.
She was still below 5 lbs when we brought her home. She fit into preemie-size clothes.

Six weeks later, I had to go back to work.  It was surreal.  I felt like I had changed enormously in the course of my birth/near death experience, yet everything at the school was the same, down to the gradebook program mysteriously losing whole sets of grades.  I cried every minute I was alone that first day.  And the second.  My only solace was that the Ballerina was being cared for by a wonderful woman from our parish.  Mrs. M had three children of her own, whom she homeschooled, so the Ballerina gained three older “siblings” during the day.  I pumped four times a day at school and delivered the milk to Mrs. M every afternoon when I picked up the Ballerina.  I discovered that the only way to snatch enough sleep to function in a room full of 13-year-olds was to co-sleep with the baby.  It was so much more restful, and we’ve co-slept with all our babies, breastfeeding them on demand throughout the night.

Sometimes, the Ballerina seemed so easy, and I wondered why we hadn’t tried for a baby earlier, but I think God’s timing was on our hearts.  Dr. K and her staff saved my life.  We had only moved into that town a year before, and I am convinced that I would not have survived such a birth in the hospital in our previous town.  Too many of my friends and relatives have delivered there, and the stories are discouraging. I was in the right hospital, with the right doctor, for both the Ballerina and I to survive.

Did I say survive? I think we can safely say she has thrived.
Did I say survive? I think we can safely say she has thrived.

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