First of all, I’ve never read Watership Down, and I ought to.
Second of all, it’s been a while, blogosphere! Hi, friend! I had wanted to sit down and write a few times since all of the craziness of the last month kicked off, but I was pretty busy AND it felt wrong to be reflective about an ongoing though. Maybe it was superstition, I don’t know, but I didn’t want to pause to think when there were still so many things going on that could be scary. This is still the case, but the frenetic pace has slowed – as I write this, my kiddo is in front of me in his bassinet on the coffee table and my wife is upstairs catching a much-needed nap.
‘Brad, Brad, Brad, Brad.’
My wife was downstairs saying my name with a note of alarm. Her brother and his wife were driving up to visit us, and I assumed it was some mild nuisance of a this-house-better-be-impeccable variety.
I was packing in our bedroom, preparing for our drive to Santa Fe the next day. We were going to catch the opera (it’s outdoors there, and my grandparents used to love doing that) and enjoy the foods, art, and tourist shops of downtown Santa Fe for a weekend.
I came to the top of the staircase and looked down, my wife said, ‘I think my water just broke.’
She was on the phone calling her doctor, I rushed back to our room to grab a hoody (we had done an ER trip a month before and it was cold in that hospital), shoes, wallet, keys, and a hoody for her.
Thankfully, we live 10 minutes from the hospital, and yet, I couldn’t help but think proudly as I calmly rushed us to the ER, I bet I would be good if I was a cop in a car chase.
I dropped off the Mrs. at the entrance and zoomed to a parking spot. Someone came down quickly, within minutes, and we began walking to an elevator to go to the birthing center area. The night prior we had taken a tour of the hospital as part of our childbirth class. The Mrs. had ironically asked a question, ‘does anyone ever not make it through the whole class? Because they deliver early?’ I had spent the tour thinking about the fact that they deliver fresh cookies every day at 4 pm to the birthing center. How can I get my wife to time her labor so that I can leave the room right after he’s born to have a few cookies?
A nurse quickly came to see us, a test was performed and yep, her water had broken. The midwife came in and she had the nurse do a second test, a different one, to verify, and yep, water still broken.
She was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant.
We were at that hospital from about 8 pm til around midnight. It was terrifying, emotional, and that odd mix of fast and painfully slow. They gave my wife a steroid shot, one of two that she would hopefully receive. The purpose of the shot is to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs. Preterm babies can have respiratory issues, and especially those born in Colorado with the higher elevation. Later, one doc informed us, a 36-weeker born in Houston (sea level) could go home right away, whereas a 36-weeker in Colorado is more likely going to need a visit to the NICU. Ideally, a woman can stay pregnant long enough to get one steroid shot, a second steroid shot 24 hours later, and then hold off on labor for 48 hours to let the steroids take full effect.
They also put an IV in my wife and began a heavy dose of magnesium, which dampens the body’s ability to have contractions and helps the baby’s brain. A two-fer, if you will. This stuff hit hard and fast, my wife described it as taking a shot of bourbon while sitting in a dry sauna. She had that warmth go down her throat (even though it was an IV) and felt hot. Her eyes immediately got a bit distant and you could tell she was under the impact of a powerful drug.
After all of the initial hullabaloo and checking, the pace slowed a bit as we waited for an ambulance to transfer the Mrs. The hospital where we had envisioned having our son could only support babies 34 weeks and up, and we were not looking like we would hit that mark.
When the ambulance arrived I swung by home to pack clothes, say hi to my brother-in-law and his wife, pet the dog, and scoot.
At the new hospital my wife arrived around the same time I did (shhh, nobody sped …).
While on her ambulance ride to this hospital, my wife was having contractions once every four or five minutes. If you don’t know, that’s worrisome. We wanted, really, really wanted, for her to stay pregnant.
Thankfully, after she arrived, the contractions slowed and eventually stopped. We buckled in for a long night’s non-rest at the hospital, with a nurse coming to check her vitals and usually help her to the bathroom every two hours. She had the magnesium, antibiotics (the ‘water’ is one of three barriers to infection for a baby, with that gone the antibiotics came in), and an IV of fluids all being pumped in. In addition, her belly had bands on it to monitor her heart rate, the baby’s heart rate, and any contractions. Every two hours they took her temperature, her blood pressure, and asked her to rate her pain. (What on earth is that rate your pain thing?)
A doc came to visit us, I think, and the NICU charge nurse, it was a happening place.
Ideally, she would stay pregnant until 34 weeks, when the risk of infection outweighs the gains of continuing to let the little guy develop, and then they would induce. In the meantime, during those two weeks, she would be on bed rest at the hospital, and if she showed signs of infection, they would induce or carry out an emergency c-section.
Stress, you old so and so, I didn’t know you were in town to see me?! You fu – nevermind, my mom reads this.
The goal: relax! Just relax! But if anything seems wrong, dear God hold tight.
On the plus side, the staff in the ‘birthing center ICU’ as we came to call it, and the whole hospital, were amazing. The amount of negative experiences or exchanges, given how stressful the whole ordeal was, is impressive. One of these sweet people went out and got a labor bed for me, which I slept on that night (and many nights to come).
Meanwhile, miles and miles away, my wife’s mom was in action. She had been in a play when the Mrs. called her during our ride to the ER, but when she found out what was happening she began to look into tickets.
This was all right before the big eclipse (doesn’t that feel like forever ago?) and Denver appeared to be a popular destination because they were not having luck finding tickets. But then, aha!, there’s one!
But wait … they booked a flight to Denver from … Dallas!? And they live in Houston. And the flight is leaving not too long from now so … ROAD TRIP!
Stress, huh? It plays tricks on the ability to process information.
Lauren’s bro and his wife swing by to chit chat. It’s lovely, it’s enjoyable, and it’s slightly education for the bro’s wife who is pregnant with twins. Twins are much more likely to arrive early, and at one point during our NICU stay there were four sets of twins.
After they take off it’s only a short while before her folks arrive. Reinforcements!
A little hello, a little how’s it goings, a few tears between the wife and her mama, and then we settle in for some good old fashioned hospital hang out time.
I headed home to shower, see the dog, pack new clothes, and I also took a shower and cried like a baby. I had been go-go-go, handling any little request from my wife, and oozing stress (did you know googling ‘long term health effects 33 week baby’ can result in sheer terror?). The crying was like a sudden thunderstorm, it surprised me, but it was a little refreshing. Don’t let anyone fool you, boys and girls, crying can be cathartic.
I changed, grabbed my bag, and headed back to the hospital. By this point it was mid-afternoon and we were approaching 24 hours since the first steroid shot. This was a big and happy milestone.
Every hour felt important and a smidge dire. One of the doctors or nurses told us that every 8 hours he is in the womb is one day less for our NICU stay.
Every 8 hours was divided into 2 hour chunks, because every 2 hours a nurse would come to check vitals. One might assume that every four hours was also a nice chunk, because in the afternoons I would go hunt for fresh baked cookies (they delivered them to the birthing center at this hospital, too!).
Somehow, we made it to Sunday, when we were told my wife would be transferring to the antepartum/postpartum area, and not only that, we would be moving to a room with two windows! Look out world!
Sunday night, at around 9 pm (who am I kidding, I know exactly when, 9:21 pm), represented 48 hours since the second steroid shot. The kiddo had already benefited greatly from mom sitting tight and him keepin’ on.
Also in the postpartum area, we were down to three vitals checks a day, and no longer constant monitoring of her! Look out world! Instead, in this new setup, a nurse would come in during the morning, early afternoon, and evening to check on her vitals and the kiddo’s heart rate. Thirty minutes of monitoring and then they’d be off … unless, of course, the kiddo’s heart rate drops below the tolerable threshold in which case they’d need to stick around.
Oh, and did you know, when your water breaks, and the little guy moves in the womb, he can sometimes grab the umbilical cord which will cause his heart rate to drop and a nurse to say, ‘well … we were about to take you off [the monitor], but then we saw this little dip …’
Oh yes, our child is a champion of timing.
Also, fun fact, amniotic fluid (the ‘water’) is regenerated by a pregnant woman, and part of the recipe for amniotic fluid is baby urine!
The nurses also came by every X hours for a new dose of medicine. Solid sleep was not a part of the hospital stay.
That Work Week
Lauren’s step-dad left Monday, but her mom said I’m here til he’s here (he meaning the baby). From day one of the hospital til the next chapter, The Kiddo – Part II – TBD, we were in the hospital 10 days.
I went to work during the course of that week with the hope and expectation that my wife and her mom would be bored, restless, and watching Project Runway in the hospital. Instead, it turned out to be much more lively. Some highlights of that week are as follows:
- With her water broken, my wife would sometimes experience pretty intense pain when the baby would move around (no water = no shield for his movements crashing around in there)
- Bed rest can cause vertigo, or possibly the intense dizziness that yielded my wife throwing up was caused from side-effects of medicine … know what’s scary? When your wife wakes up and pukes and can’t get to the bathroom that’s less than 10 feet away without wheelchair assistance
- Baby heart rate drops leading to extra ultrasounds and a short but scary trip back to the birthing center ICU
- A raising white blood cell count, which potentially indicated a brewing infection … This was watched closely, and every time someone would pop by to draw blood I would excuse myself (I’m not so good with needles, thankfully, my pin cushion wife is much better than me about that)
- I was walking into work one morning when I saw a rabbit. This is really common here. We have a bunch of rabbits that live in our backyard, and all around the neighborhood. Because of this, we started calling the kiddo ‘the littlest bunny.’ Seeing a rabbit on the way into work I wanted to make it mean something – a rabbit! Ok, that’s a good sign … right? Or maybe it means he’s coming now!? Then it struck me, it must have been so easy for ancient peoples to concoct gods or various meanings for all kinds of things. I felt so powerless in this whole situation, and even though there was plenty of science and educated people talking to us about what was going on, I wanted to assign meaning to all kinds of arbitrary things.
- My wife was on a lot of powerful drugs, lacking sleep, and feeling stressed. As a result, she was in a sort of perpetual beaten down state. In this state, she had a funny habit of everything getting the same level of urgency. ‘Brad,’ said with a sort of sad and concerned voice, which would immediately awaken me or draw me out of whatever distraction I had thrown myself into (generally stupid apps), ‘I can’t find my chap stick.’ Ridiculous to have it awaken fear in me every time I heard my name said with that voice, right? BUT. With the SAME EXACT TONE, ‘Brad? … I feel too dizzy to get up, can you help me?’ I mean, come on.
- I had been reading, very slowly, one of those what to expect books, and you can sure read a lot of pages in a hurry when your kiddo is taking the bullet train to the station.
I doubt I encapsulated all my thoughts or feelings with much articulation. But I wanted to get this down for myself. I’m sure I’ll look back on this and feel like I left out big chapters in this story, but up next I’ll talk about the day he said ‘READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!’