As soon as I am quiet, sitting with Oscar, letting the din of the NICU wash over both of us the overwhelming feeling I get is one of gratitude. I got him. He’s here. He made it. Could I be any luckier?
People who don’t know the story so well might not see it that way. They might think “how terrible to be going through all that.” And yeah, it sucks a lot. But mostly just in the mechanics of it all. The scheduling everything down to the minute and the stress of never being with all your kids at one time. But you guys know me. You know what I mean when I say I am very, very lucky. It dawned on me that I have not shared the details of Oscar’s birth with that many people. Maybe you have heard through the grapevine or whatnot, but I think it might be interesting to know exactly why he appeared so long before he was expected.
My pregnancy was high risk from the get go. After losing Axel at 19 weeks 3 days last summer, things would never be the same. Every day felt like a month, and I had bleeding early on in the first trimester which landed me on bedrest for a week (I think, it seems like an eternity ago). See, after Axel’s birth I sought answers. Shocking I know. Turns out I have a bleeding disorder and two clotting disorders. Never knew that before. The bleeding disorder is very mild, I have no symptoms of it, and pregnancy is a cure for it so that isn’t the problem. The clotting disorders are trickier. They are also genetic and get worse with time. Hence my relatively carefree pregnancies with Colton and Lucca. I managed to find the very best doctor for these sort of pickles and I forged ahead. I took shots each night. Blood thinners, injected into my stomach. Anyone who has done this knows it isn’t fun. Anyone who has had a stillbirth knows it ain’t nothin’ but a thing comparatively speaking. So shoot up I did. Things were moving ahead.
At 12 weeks I had more bleeding, and three weeks more bedrest. My placentas (placentae?) like to abrupt. Meaning they lift away from the wall of my uterus and I bleed. Then I clot, and then I contract, which disturbs the clot. In early pregnancy the contractions are mild and things were ok. Everything settled down and healed. I entered the honeymoon phase and things were normal. Fun, pregnancy stuff. Hungry, and big and slow (no exercise of any kind for me). I relaxed.
At 27 weeks on the nose I woke up to more bleeding. Days after a perfect ultrasound where I was labelled the ‘boring patient.’ I was thrilled with that moniker. It felt like winning the Nobel Prize. I had very reluctantly agreed to travel 6 hours by car to a remote hotel to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. Looking back it was insane, I begged my doctor to disallow it. He said he didn’t like it but it was up to me. We made a med-evac plan, I sat as still as I could enduring the whole nerve-wracking three days. I got home, thinking I evaded disaster, and that next morning, massive bleeding.
I freaked out, and raced to hospital. As soon as I arrived I was quickly admitted since it turned out I was contracting, a lot. I didn’t feel them, or didn’t think they were a big deal. I always had a TON of contractions with the boys, I thought that was normal. I never dilated, not even at 42 weeks with Colton. So what did I know?
The doctor started me on Magnesium, which anyone who had ever been on it will agree is the worst drug in the world. The bleeding slowed, the contractions settled. I stayed 20 days in the ICU. Close friends visited, I got through it. After finishing the Magnesium, they put me on Procardia for maintenance. Each time I had more than 4 contractions an hour I got a shot of Terbutaline. That’s like 10 espressos. Not fun. But I would do anything for this baby.
I missed Lucca’s birthday. I missed his party. I cried tears of gratitude for my dear friend Jen who organized his party in my stead, and Cortney my babysitter who held down the fort. And for Sara, my au pair (such a small word for her, she is so much more) who was me for my boys at home. Everyone rallied around and made it great. My father came up nearly every day, sometimes visiting twice a day. I was and am so grateful. I get tears thinking of my brother Mike walking around with his iPhone trying to FaceTime the party to me. It was very hard to be away right then.
After 20 days I was discharged. It was controversial, but I needed to go home. Sara was set to leave, we had hired someone new, my boys cried every night on the phone to me. I cried much of each day. I was medically stable. I left with the plan to stay home for a few days, get things settled at home, and come back for 4-6 weeks at which point my doctor would deliver me. The day after I returned home, I went for an office visit for ultrasound and monitoring. Everything looked great. Baby was doing well. No sign of the source of the bleed. Went home and sat on the couch. Did as I was told.
Half way through Bachelor Pad and right after our beloved Monday night ritual of artichokes, spaghetti and meatballs, I felt something. I rushed to the bathroom and Matt scolded me, telling me to sit still and rest. I was bleeding again. This was very serious, I knew. I panicked, Matt panicked. I thought of the million things I would need to pack. I needed to PACK! I was going to be stuck in the hospital for eternity. I needed my hairdryer and my favorite photo of my mother. My lipstick, my book, that bra. Matt came unhinged. GET IN THE CAR NOW!!!!! STOP IT AND GET IN THE CAR NOW! He screamed at me. It made it worse.
I did as I was told. Well, I went in and kissed my sleeping kids first, dripping tears on their cheeks, saying, “Don’t worry Mommy is ok. I won’t be here when you wake up but everything is ok.”
Matt drove 70 mph to the hospital. It scared me more. I thought I felt contractions but I couldn’t be sure because of the bumps in the road and Matt’s nerves. I hung my head as he wheeled me into L&D, where I had left 26 hours earlier. “Hi Judy, Hi Kathy. Yep, its me again.”
They strapped me to monitors as we waited for Doctor Viscarello to arrive. Turns out I was contracting hard (I felt them now) every 2-3 minutes. The bleeding continued. The bleeding begets contracting begets bleeding begets contracting. No dilating, no labor. None of the typical things you think of if you haven’t lived my nightmare. He arrived and after conferring with the attendings, decided to put me back on the Magnesium. I started to cry. ‘I can take it doc. Whatever you tell me to do I will do. I just need a moment.” He understood. “The first time we can tell you that it isn’t so bad. The second time is rough for sure. You know what’s coming.”
My dad raced up to be with me. It was 12:30am on August 21. They gave me an Ambien and I went to sleep, iron will and all.
5:40 am is the average wakeup call in the ICU, by the way. The residents come in and take your vitals and assess you quickly. I was always very annoyed by this. Mine came in and I said, “Can you just let me use the bedpan first and change my gown???? Its soaking wet.” He paled and left the room.
My water had broken. Delivery was imminent. That’s what happens. The bleeding and contracting weaken the amniotic sack and your water breaks. Or mine does. It happened for little Axel at 19 weeks. Oscar by the grace of God got 10.5 more weeks than his brother did. And it’s everything. I am filled with gratitude.
Lucca came to ‘visit’ Oscar for the first time today. What an embarrassment of riches these children are. How could I feel anything but immense, overwhelming gratitude? It was sublime.