Thursday, February 03, 2005

So last year at this time, T. was standing behind me with his arms wrapped around my belly, swaying while he sang and "danced" with his daughter, for what he thought would be the last time. I read her a book, and we lay there in my hospital bed with his head on my belly. Neither of us slept very well that night.

They'd warned everyone about what was going on so they wouldn't come in all cheery and say things like, "are we excited? We're having a baby today!", but the nurse who came in to put in my IV line still cried when she heard what was going on. T. started getting physically ill from the stress, and my OB actually wrote him a prescription for an anti-nausea pill, because he couldn't even stand up. The doctor in charge of the NICU came in to talk to us about what was going to happen. They would have a team in the OR, along with the geneticist. If she stayed alive long enough, the geneticist would assist in examining her to determine whether she had a chance to improve. If not, she would be given morphine to ease her suffering, and we would get to hold her. If he thought she had a chance, she would be taken to the NICU for further evaluation. He told us how the day that we were told about Peanut's condition, another little girl was born there with hypoplastic lungs (the main birth defect that would be lethal to Peanut), and died a few days later. There was no known reason for her condition, and her parents knew there was some kind of problem, but not exactly what it was. Why he told us this, I don't know. Maybe so we understood that we weren't the first parents to face this, not even the first in the last week in that hospital. Her obituary was in the paper that very day. Priya, sweetheart, I will never forget you. I still don't understand why Peanut lived and you didn't. I wish so much that you would have, that your parents and brother didn't have to lose you.

I refused the medication they wanted to give me after the birth to bring my blood pressure down, because its main side effect is extreme grogginess. My doctor said she had to warn me of the risk I was taking, but she totally understood. I wanted to be awake for what might be my daughter's only time on Earth. I was finally taken down to the OR, after a final prayer with the pastor. The injection for the spinal block hurt for three seconds, and then nothing else did. The sensation was very strange--I could feel my legs being touched, but I couldn't feel any pain. The room was full of women--the doctors, nurses, and techs were all women, and that made me happy. Two men appeared, but they were from pediatrics and stood in the corner. The anesthesiologist was wonderful, explaining everything that was going on to us. T. bent down and we whispered a prayer together. I had spent the last week visualizing her ribcage growing wider, and her lungs growing larger and flexible. Now I concentrated on her using them to take a deep breath.

Did she ever. They pulled her legs out, and her head was kind of stuck. One big tug, and she was free and let out a scream I could hear above the beeping machines next to my ear. And she kept on screaming, mad as hell. I could hear the grunting respirations, but they were breaths, she was breathing, all on her own. I knew, then, that nothing was wrong with her. She'd be fine.

T. went off to the NICU with her, after they gave me a quick glimpse of an angry red face with a lot of dark hair. My friend Dana came in while they sewed me up. They broke the rules for us--normally they only allow one person in the room with you the whole time. Dana couldn't stand it and peeked over the curtain to see what it looked like, then looked down at me and said, "now we have to always stay friends, because I've seen your insides". After they were done, they took me into the recovery room, where my mother waited for me. Someone came in then and gave us the news: Peanut was breathing on her own after needing a little oxygen for a few minutes (like many babies born by c-section, they have fluid in their breathing passages that didn't get squeezed out as in a natural birth, so they are a little congested). She looked "fine", and they couldn't see anything life-threatening at that time. I was too out of it to demand the radiologist come in and explain to me right then and there what the hell happened. I acquiesed to getting the med for my blood pressure, and I don't remember much else that happened for the next 24 hours, except threatening to get up and walk out of the recovery room as soon as I could feel my feet to see her if they weren't going to let me go see her, which they weren't. My condition was very dangerous, and my blood pressure wasn't coming down fast enough. I demanded to go, saying that if they thought it was high now...

They wheeled me in on a gurney and I got to look at her for a full minute before they took me away. I didn't notice her legs or anything other than her face. I couldn't believe she was real, that there really had been a tiny person living inside of me that was now out and *breathing*. I still have to watch for her breaths, or touch her, to make sure she is still taking those breaths, while she sleeps and I have no idea when that's going to end. I got to hold her for the first time the next day. She weight four pounds, thirteen ounces at birth, and the next day was four pounds, seven ounces. She was eighteen inches long, and her head was 35 centimeters around (why they never translate that measurement into inches, I don't know). At some point, the doctors pronounced her having arthrogryposis, and that's it. Oh, and a blocked tear duct. No one could explain to us the discrepency between what was seen on the ultrasound, and what she actually was born with, and no one has yet.

If you are still reading this, I am impressed. Tomorrow we are having a little birthday party for her with our friends from the mother/baby group. Her granddaddy is in town from Atlanta too. I'll write some more tomorrow on what she is like now--wonderful, of course, but in what specific ways.


elswhere said...

I'm still reading. Couldn't tear myself away. I am in awe of you and T. and Peanut.

Jen said...

Please tell Peanut happy birthday for us!! We can't wait to get up and see you all has been too long.

Anonymous said...

Peanut is miraculous and adorable. In the immortal words of John Madden, she's sumpthin' special. (But I mean it more than Madden does.)

Carlos, halfway down in Brooklyn