“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Written from my hospital bed almost a week ago:
The past few days have been part of a dream- the kind of dream where you wake up in a foreign land and then realize, no this is actually not a dream.
A dream like Alice in Wonderland. Nothing follows the rules. Everything is baffling and strange. But you get the hang of it, and there really is so much beauty.
I am a mother! I have given birth, at 30 weeks through an emergency cesarean section, to a beautiful 3 lb boy. He has all the parts. He has ears and eyes and a nose! Long, agile fingers that reach out searching for me, and grasp me when I’m near. Beautiful feet that are attached to slender legs that curl up and rest as I cup my hand under his hips. Lips that quiver and express such a wide range of emotions in a split second! Eye brows that say things he can’t possibly articulate. He is absolutely covered in hair. And though chances are he can’t see me well, when we pull his headband back and turn the light down, he searches my face with his eyes- I feel like he can see straight down into my soul.
My world is upside down. Two weeks ago, I began showing signs of preeclampsia. It was only manifesting in high blood pressure. For two weeks, the blood pressure was the only symptom. It was completely out of control. And it caused partial blindness in my left eye. For two weeks, I struggled blindly and dependent lay to find some way to find a balance. To lower my BP, maybe continue working, find some way to relax. When my BP didn’t balance, my doctor made the decision to monitor me very closely with twice a week non-stress tests, a measure usually reserved for later in pregnancy. At that point I became aware that I wasn’t going to get better. My dreams of natural childbirth in a dim, calm room with beautiful music and a massage began scaling away. I started contemplating the measures that would be taken to control my BP if I carried to full term. It’s often considered medically necessary to induce at 36 -38 weeks for high blood pressure, and to control the pressure with an epidural. I spent a few days coming to terms with this idea. I began intensely practicing breathing exercises and visualization. Controlling my wandering mind. Combatting the panic feeling that I always get when I think if hospitals and medicine.
My doctor and her colleagues respected my dreams and aspirations for the birth of my son in every aspect of the process and in return I trusted my doctor implicitly. She connected with me empathetically and I trusted her intuition. Above anything else, I wish all pregnant women could find such a connection with their caregiver. The emotions I feel for my OB right now are intense and grateful. My dreams were shattered, but they were never disrespected. When the close monitoring decision was made, I switched my focus from childbirth to breast feeding. What you can’t control you shouldn’t fret over.
I lasted one non-stress test. Lab work returned in less than 24 hours that showed my organs shutting down. Full blown preeclampsia replaced erratically high blood pressure. I had to interrupt Austin while he was teaching in order to get to the hospital. More blood was drawn. The conversation went from delivery in weeks to delivery tomorrow to delivery in 10 minutes.
There is a lot more to this story, but it is going to have to come out slowly. This morning, I sat in my hospital bed during my 6 am pumping, crying deep sobs. It was the best cry I’ve had so far- very healing. Pumping is an emotional relief for me. It comes so naturally. And as I cried, my nurse and the on-call doctor both came ( during their rounds). The doctor (not MY doctor) was concerned that maybe I was depressed and wanted to give me something to make me stop crying. I don’t the she has any idea how soothing that cry was. I’ve spent the last few days feeling like Alice in Wonderland. I’ve had simultaneous sensations of floating and falling; of skin numbness; nerves firing for no reason. When I close my eyes, I hear strange sounds- doors slamming, in audible murmurs, confusion. I cannot hold my baby because he is laying in a pod in NICU. I get scolded for sitting up in my bed.
My old normal is gone. I am finding my new self. My life has transformed beyond the boundaries of my imagination. And I have a son! So, here’s to a new life!