I’ll spare you the gory details, but here are a few highlights from the next several hours:
- As the nurses and doctors began rushing around my room, which was blurry and a little orange, I asked Mark if I was going to die. His reassuring response? “I don’t think so.”
- My nurse, Kristina, overheard and said, “Not on my watch.” I found out later that she stayed in my room most of the following night, just watching me breathe, making sure I was okay.
- The drugs in my system and my condition made me so loopy that while talking to my mom on the phone as they prepped me for surgery, I made a completely inappropriate comment about what “prepping for surgery” included. I can’t dwell on that because it’s so out of character for me and for my relationship with my mom that it’s just too humiliating.
- I started to cry as they gave me the epidural, but then I had to laugh at myself. I’d had too many friends get that shot to the spine in the middle of contractions to really feel sorry for myself.
- I talked to Mark, non-stop, during the entire surgery (which didn’t last long), because I was so nervous. The anesthesiologist laughed at us because we were talking so much.
And then she was born.
My beautiful, wonderful, healthy baby girl was born just after midnight on Monday, October 8. She weighed 3 lbs, 14 oz., and she was the cutest little frog I’d ever seen. I’m not kidding. She kind of reminded me of a frog.
The rest of that day is a blur. My memory includes a NICU nurse chastising me for not breastfeeding; my dear friends, Zac and Mandy, coming into my dark room and whispering their congratulations; my aunt sneaking into the room by telling the nurse she was my grandma – that really messes with your head when you’re all hopped up on drugs, let me tell you; my hand cramping from holding the painkiller button so tightly, terrified that I’d drop it in my sleep and the pain would start; stumbling through dictation for Smitty and Mark as they wrote an e-mail announcement to send to all our friends and family; asking Nurse Kristina for something to help me sleep, because every time I started to doze off, I got a little panicky, thinking I wouldn’t wake up; Mark waking me up in the middle of the night to show me the tiny red dress he’d bought our daughter during a late-night run to Walmart.
Our baby girl was born a year ago today. And she was healthy and strong and perfect. Because my condition didn’t improve immediately and was apparently more serious than they’d let on, I wasn’t allowed to leave my room until Thursday. But the NICU nurses actually brought her in to see me for a few, brief minutes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Thursday was a big day. They removed all my wires – IV, catheter, spinal block. I took a shower. I ate a meal sitting in a chair. And I was wheeled down the hall to hold my daughter in the nursery.
My health returned slowly and I was finally released from the hospital on Saturday. Mark and I didn’t return home with a baby, though. She stayed in the hospital for another week and a half, gaining weight, learning to eat and staying warm. My feisty baby ripped out her feeding tube a full week before the nurses thought she’d be able to eat from a bottle and never looked back. After a brief stint under the blue light, she kicked the jaundice problem. And finally – just a couple days later than we’d hoped – she learned how to keep herself warm enough to come home.