Saturday, January 12, 2008

Liam is born 4.13.04

As I have said before, Liam's birth was all tangled up in Charlotte's death. Technically they were probably too close together, but I didn't care. I still don't. It worked for us. We needed a beating heart in the bed beside us to keep us breathing and eating and he was it, swelling up my belly for nine months until the day arrived when he would enter the world.

In my fear saturated haze, I chose induction. This was offered to me right from the start. If, near the end, you cannot bear to be pregnant for one more day lest that baby die in the meantime, we can drug you up and get it out early. It sounded like heaven to me. Because Charlotte's death was a cord accident 8 days past term, there was no "point" at which I could relax. A freak accident had happened to me. It might happen again. Not only that, but I had also read each and every grief resource that I could get my hands on, so I was now aware of all the other ways that your baby can die. I had a lot to worry about.

The pregnancy was stressful. Sad. But I loved that baby in my belly. He (although he wasn't a he to me at the time, just a gender-neutral "Sweet Pea") kept me going, he gave me breath in the morning and made being with Charlotte, and being without her, more bearable. Many mothers in my position talk of their hesitancy or inability to bond with their new baby. Not me. That baby was it for me. Every day, I imagined his birth cry. I could not imagine anything further than that. I didn't imagine him wearing the clothes. I cringed when people said things like, "You'll have so much fun at the beach with him this summer." I only wished I could be so confident. But each day, I was so happy to have that baby with me.

When the 38 week mark came around, our midwives gave us their schedules at the birthing center and we picked a day. April 12th. It would be 38 weeks and 1 day. 3 weeks earlier than the day that Charlotte's cord ended her life. Maybe we could save this one.

We arrived and I felt saved. The monitor went around my big belly and I could hear the heartbeat. I was in the hospital, surrounded by all the things that maybe could have saved Charlotte if I had been in the right place at the right time, and the baby was still alive. They started the pitocin and we waited. When I arrived I was almost 4 cm. By 3 PM, I was 4 1/2. The midwife suggested stopping the pitocin and trying again the next day. She invited us for a slumber party on the monitor. We agreed. It was the best night of sleep of my whole pregnancy, just listening to that little heart go bleep, bleep, bleep all night long.

By 6 AM I was awake, and I was in labor. The nurses hadn't checked on me that night since I wasn't really a patient that night, just a tenant, and Greg was still sleeping. It was my little secret, and I could feel it was for real. Nice, strong, regular contractions. Trudy, our guardian angel nurse from when Charlotte was born, came in at around 7:30 and was so happy to see we were on our way. It was 11 months to the day after we had met her, after our Charlotte's birth. It was her 11 month birthday. And her brother would be born on this day, turning the 13th from a day of bad fortune to one of good.

My midwife was in a meeting. No problem, I said, I am happy with Trudy. I have done this before. And I love giving birth, I love to do it pretty much by myself, I don't have a hard time with it and it doesn't scare me. I feel so lucky with this, that for 3 births I have been able to just ride through contractions, and then laugh and be happy for the time inbetween. I like to sit on a big ball. That does it for me. Nice firm pressure between the legs, a little counterpressure on the back from the person behind me, a nice, long, dial-tone of a sound, and we ride it through.So I was fine with Judie finishing her meeting and coming when she was done.

When she arrived, she massaged my back for a few contractions and then said she really ought to check me. I had been in good labor for about 3 hours. She reached up there, and reached some more...

"You're fully dialated, but I can't find the head."
"It's in there."

To Trudy, "Will you go get Doctor S.?"

Trudy: "You think it's breech?"
"I don't know what it is"
So in comes the doctor, with the little portable ultrasound machine, the same one that told me my daughter was dead. Luckily I can still hear this baby's heart thundering like hoofbeats on my monitor, so my adreniline does not pump too fast.

Doctor S. puts the wand on, and says, "Oh, no, here's the head." He thinks he sees the outline of the head, but it's really just the outline of the amniotic sac, bulging into my pelvis. Then he reaches up. "But I can't feel anything."
He slides the wand upwards, over my ribs.
"There's the head," he says. He meets my eye. "This baby's coming out the other way."

Somehow, between last night and this morning, my baby had flipped, and risen completely out of my pelvis, leaving underneath him a neat sac of fluid and potentially a nice bit of umbilical cord. My water, thank god, was still intact.

I think from this time until he was born was maybe 6 minutes. In reality it was probably 9. I was 10 cm dialated and my amniotic sac was literally bursting from my body with my baby way up in my abdomen in a frank breech. Because of his placement and what they saw on the ultrasound they suspected that his cord was gathered beneath him. Sweet. Just what I was hoping for, another cord issue.

"But you're not allowed to worry," Judie tells me, as they are wheeling me into the OR. "You are not allowed to worry unless your water breaks. You are in no danger unless your water breaks. And your baby is going to be here very soon."
This is when I start to cry, because I realize that the scenario that I have played out a million times in my mind, the scenario in which they save Charlotte, is happening. And it is happening to my new baby, and they are going to get him out in time.

The anesthesiologist sticks me with a spinal because there is no time for an epidural. And there I am, and any of you who have undergone c-sections will recall this fondly, splayed out like Jesus Christ himself on the table, arms wide, draped, and about 1 minute after the injection is in my back the scalpel is out and they are cutting into me. It seems impossible that I could be numb but I can't feel anything, just pulling and tugging. Greg's eyes are glued to the top of the screen. Suddenly he grabs my hand, tight. "I can see the feet."

Then, "The baby is peeing"

And I hear it.

My baby cries. There is oxygen in his lungs. My baby is alive.

I go completely hysterical. I am hyperventilating, breathing so hard, crying harder, "He is alive, he's alive. My baby is alive, oh my god, he's alive." I have made it so far. I have made it this far. I have a new baby. Greg has told me this baby is a boy, so I know he is my little Liam, and he is alive. I can hear him, but I can't see him very well. Just little red feet.
Then, my midwife, "Bring this woman her baby," and the doctor complies, he brings to me this beautiful, gorgeous little boy, this tiny, male carbon-copy of my lost daughter, with wide-set eyes, a tiny nose, and a cheerio mouth. I cannot hold him, but I put his cheek to mine, breathe in his newborn smell. I can't turn my head. I can barely speak.

"I want to kiss him," I say, but they can't understand me. They lean over me, like I am the child, ask me to repeat myself. "I want to kiss him, " I sob, and they move him closer, and I kiss my little baby, my new little son, who I will bring home.

Greg goes with Liam while they suck out his lungs and Greg wipes him with a blanket and wraps him up like a little burrito. I am unaware of all that is going on below, and they bring my baby to me again, and lay him next to me on the table and I cry into his new skin and love him so much I feel like I am never going to be right in the head again.

It doesn't seem like long until we are back in our room where I was laboring, in fact, only half an hour has passed. Nobody in our life knows we have come to the hospital. We get to call them, it is 12 noon, and tell them their grandson, their nephew, the only living member of his generation, has been born, that he is alive, and that we are here.
They come in droves.

I have been saved.


Elizabeth said...

A beautiful story and a beautiful picture... I want this so badly for myself and I am so afraid that I'll never have it.

Leigh said...

And it is posts like yours that scream "perspective!" and "humility!" and "gratitude!" to me.

My first baby was frank breech and I was a homebirth transport due to it. I ended up with a C-section, baby was healthy, but I rode an emotional roller coaster for 2 years, devastated by her birth. Healing was heavy, needed, and finally mine.

And yet...this kind of birth may have not only saved his life, but healed yours! Healed you (albeit I can only assume not completely, never fully) from the death of your precious girl. Your wisdom and acceptance of his birth are beautiful and bittersweet.

How amazing the gifts and lessons this universe brings us.

I am bowing in gratefullness for this birth of your son, for this technology; the same technology I cursed over 2 years ago. It also makes me wonder if my girl would have had cord issues had she been born vaginally?

xoxo and peace


PS Girl #2 was born Frank Breech and at home. My babies love to be breech.