Friday, January 25, 2013

How I Got Here

I guess it's natural for me to think about my birth during my birth month.  I just turned 45.  Yes, I'm now halfway through my forties.  I'm staring down the barrel of 50.  Somehow 45 has been harder than 30 and 40 combined.  (Don't do the math there because it doesn't add up.)  So yeah, I have been reflective.

Things were so much different 45 years ago.  If we knew then what we know now, my birthday would have either been on January 6 OR my college education would have been paid for through a malpractice settlement.  It is truly a miracle that my mom and I survived our birth ordeal.  I have heard the story over and over.  I even remember the first time I heard it.  We were at our lake cabin and somehow we got on the subject one night during a thunderstorm.  Dad told the whole story.  It was the first time I ever saw him cry. 

My mom's water broke on a Friday morning while she was at the grocery store.  Woo hoo.  Dream come true!  So Mom, being Mom, finished her shopping, checked out and then went home to spend the rest of the day playing Scrabble with Dad and timing her contractions.

Okay Moms - think about that.  Now they tell you if your water breaks, you need to go to the hospital.  You MUST deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking to prevent infection.  Mom, on the other hand, didn't even go to the hospital until about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday.

We were living in South Carolina at the time.  It can get cold and snowy in January in South Carolina.  As a matter of fact, there was a snowstorm underway.  (I found this really cool account of it from the North Carolina perspective.  I love the internet.)  Once Mom and Dad got to the hospital, they (now) surmise that the doctor didn't feel like making the drive in because of the weather, so his instructions were to give Mom something to slow the contractions.  So they did.  I don't know if it was this action or Mom's own body, but after that she didn't dilate any more.  However, she did continue to bleed and leak amniotic fluid.  (If there are any men reading this, I just lost a significant portion of them.)  Sometime Sunday or Monday they decided to try to kick-start the dilation process with more drugs.  They didn't work. 

It wasn't until Tuesday - you read that right TUESDAY - that they finally decided to take me by c-section.  Now think about that on so many levels.  Mom's water broke on FRIDAY.  They let her go until TUESDAY before taking the baby.  Also, this was during a time when the husband was not allowed in the labor room with the wife.  Mom was alone.  Dad was in the waiting room watching father after father be called to see their new offspring.  Chew on that for a while. 

By the time the powers that be decided on the c-section, mom was so exhausted that she couldn't sign the release papers.  She couldn't hold a pen.  The reality was that they had waited so long that both of our lives were in serious danger.  They told my dad that it was highly likely that only one of us would survive.  They asked him, in the event that a choice needed to be made, which life would he like them to save.  Of course he chose my mom.  And I have never let him forget that.  (My first car was a Camaro.)  Then, when they wheeled Mom out on the gurney to go to the OR, they brought Dad out into the hall to SAY GOOD-BYE TO HER.  (As you can imagine, it was this point in the story that Dad gets choked up.)  Then they took her away and he was left to wait.  Again.  For a long time.

Finally, the afternoon of the 9th, they came and got him and took him to see me.  I'm sure his first glimpse of me was a shock, too.  Think about it - I had been fighting to get out for four days.  Dad said that my head was like an angelfish - skinny when viewed head-on and fat when viewed from the side.  He's told me that he kept saying over and over, "She's so beautiful!  She's so ugly!"  My hospital picture does tell some of the story.  One eye is swollen almost shut and my head is . . . just . . . weird.  (Dad told me that when he sent this photo to his mother she cried for a couple of days because she thought that I had Down's Syndrome.)

I look pretty ticked off.  I probably was.  No one had done a darned thing to get me outta there for WAAAAY too long.  I'm not a patient person.  Even today.

So they showed my angelfish mug to my dad and he fell in love.  Rightly so.  I mean, even though I look very judgemental, I was still adorable.  But then Dad asked about his wife.  To a person, everyone he asked said, "The doctor will be down in a minute to talk to you."  Given the events of the day, he concluded that Mom had died and they were waiting on the doctor to give him the news.  He spent the next two hours thinking that he was a widower with a newborn.  Needless to say, all the doctor had to tell him was that Mom was fine and was resting.  But still the two hours of anguish took its toll.  One evening when I was about nine years old we were watching a made for TV movie about some sort of disease of the week.  The lead actor asked a nurse about his wife's test results and she answered, "The doctor will be in to talk to you shortly."  Dad gasped and had to leave the room.

Back then (that really makes me sound too old), if a baby was delivered by c-section, the hospital stay was one week.  Dad was not allowed to touch me while we were in the hospital.  I was a week old before he got to hold me.  Insult to injury, I say.

Mom, on the other hand, bounced back well.  She was back to her former weight in no time.  But that's only because her doctor restricted her pregnancy weight gain to TEN POUNDS!  I weighed six pounds.  The placenta weighs about a pound or so (I just lost the remaining male readers), plus there's the added blood volume, amniotic fluid, and don't get me started on maternal breast tissue!  All told, I think my mom lost weight when she was pregnant.  How I made it into this world as a healthy baby is really a miracle.

I've lived with this story for close to 40 years.  It's a tough story to be a part of.  My mom almost died bringing me into the world.  If it had taken place just 100 years earlier, we both would have died.  But we didn't.  We BOTH lived.  For me, there has to be a really good reason that we both lived.  Not only lived, but thrived.  There were no lasting (physical) effects.  I thrived and Mom healed.  Mom and Dad even went on to have another kid!  That's saying something!  (Of course, with my little brother, she just chose a due date and then made the surgery appointment.  No labor required.)  For most of my life I have lived with a sense of importance - that God spared me for some grand reason.  It's only been within the past 13 years or so that I realized that it might not be a huge, earth-shattering or humanity-saving reason.

My two children are alive because I lived.  That's reason enough for me. 

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