Friday, July 31, 2009

Speaking of Babies, Did I Ever Tell You WHY Evan is a Miracle?

It was just a couple of weeks after we saw the two pink lines on the little stick when the beeding started. The OB referred to it as "threatened spontaneous abortion". Miscarriage. But maybe not, because there on the screen was a tiny beating heart. The shock of realization on John's face will never leave me. His baby, who he said looked like a bean, there in living color. So I started the visits to the oupatient lab every other day, where they would leave black bruises on my arms in order to siphon from me the blood that would tell them that our baby was thriving. And every other day, we would wait and cry and pray that he was. Or wait for the call that it was all over, that we would try again, that they needed to schedule a D&C. We just waited.
Then one day it was over. I was so happy on that day. I envisioned my body making the discovery that this angel was there to stay for 40 weeks. To stop trying to get rid of him, that he was no intruder, but rather a welcome passenger. The nausea and vomiting were signs of life within me, and they were welcome too. We picked names. Emily for a girl. But what for a boy? He should be named after his father, we decided. But we hated the idea of relatives in southern Kentucky calling him "Junior". So we perused the books for boy names. The control freak in me was beside heself. We needed a boy name. Brady? Tucker? No, too trendy. Then one day I saw it: Evan: Welsh version of John. Little Evan for a boy. Named after his father, but still his own person.
The happiness was short-lived. My body is stubborn. I felt the first contraction a few days later like a gentle tugging within me. But wait. Accoding to the calender, I still had 5 months to go. That gentle tugging turned to tearing, ripping, searing pain. Thoughts of all of the bleeding, John's excitement, Evan or Emily, pink or blue...they all swirled in my head as John rushed me to the hospital. And the first feeling I ever got of John-and Andrea-Against-the-World was when the young doctor told us that th medication did not work, that the contractions were continuing, that he was sorry, but I was having a miscarriage. I wonder what he thought of us, as we clung to each other, crying those big hot tears, grieving for the baby that wasn't to be. Married for about 6 months at the time, we were all each other had in that moment. I imagine it was pity he felt. Or determination. Whatever the reason, a second dose of mdication was given, and the contractions stopped. And we rejoiced. And I returned home a few days later. Only to return again. Same scenario, different day. Again and again we grieved for the loss of our baby, only to find out that it was another near-miss.
After 2 weeks of trips back and forth to the hospital, we met the doctor who would test our resolve. More pre-term labor. But this ime, the doctor and nurse came in to the room and pulled up chairs by my bed. They started speaking of babies with profound disabilities from prematurity. Of families wrecked with medical expenses. Of our youth. The doctor actually said the dreaded word next. Abortion. He told me to let God have our baby, that it wasn't in the cards, that we could have another. I didn't understand. Was the baby okay? Wasn't it just my body? Didn't they have medicine to stop the labor that had been working? Wasn't I at 20 weeks of pregnancy? The age of viability, as they had been telling me during previous visits? I didn't understand, but we knew we needed to find a docotr who wanted us to have our baby like we wanted to.
A couple of months went by, and we switched hospitals to one with a top-rated NICU in preparation for a birth of a very premature infant. We toured the NICU. The hospitalizations continued as we braced ourselves for heartbreak. I learned what the "Special OB Unit" was at Good Smamritan in Cincinnati. I spent over a month there, on magnesium sulfate drips. At such a high dose that I was not permitted to get up to go to the bathroom or even roll in bed by myself. I had chest x-rays every oher day because such high doses were associated with fluid on the lungs. They would cover my arms in hot packs to relieve some of the pain from the viscous fluid going into my veins. They said it was about the thickness of corn-syrup, and that is why it was so painful. Every third day, they would come in and stop the drip because it was not safe for me to be on it any longer than that. And every third day, the contractions would start back up. I got yet another course of steroid injections to prepare the baby for the early birth that could not be stopped. I met a maternal-fetal specialist who was the best in his field and began to get ultrasounds twice a week. We learned tht it was a boy in there. That there was no infection in the amniotic fluid, and no other reason for me to be having the preterm labor. "Sometims this just happens", they told me. But with each week, I got closer to the day that our baby could be born, that the rate of survival for him increased just a teensy bit.
I ws sent home. I was on a medication that would lower my blood pressure so much that when I would take a hot shower, I would pass out from the further dilation of my vessels. I was on another that caused such horrible acid reflux that I was essentially vomitting without wretching. Huge moutfuls of hot sour acid would wash up without any warning. But my baby was okay.
It got to the point where we thought Evan would survive, and we begged the doctors to deliver him. "You can help him", I woul plead. I just wanted them to make it stop.
A little past midnight, on September 1st, 2001, it finally did. I was havng hard contractions, and a nurse midwife who had never seen me before insisted that I was not dilating. And she said I wasn't due for anothr 5 weeks. We laughed at her like maniacs and begged for the on-call obstetrician. I blurted out words like fetal fibronectin,amniocentesis, ultrasounds, steroid courses in all 3 trimesters, hCg levels, magnesium sulfate, age of viability... She started telling me about "what is best for the baby", and a cried hot tears as I told her of the unspeakable hell I had endured for my body to continue to provide a home for this growing baby. I knew from my experiences that if you start labor at 36 weeks, they will let you go. I was 35 weeks. And I didn't care about a few more days. I couldn't do any more. My body was physically, emotionally, and mentally drained in every way imaginable.
The OB finally came in, and he ordered everyone to get off of me. He put his hands on my giant belly and felt as contraction after contraction ripped through me in waves. Contractions that felt like they were ripping me in two, but were not causing any results. And he told me to breathe through them. The monitors came off as he let me feel this last bit of pain unencumbered by the trappings of modern medicine. And he explained to me how they usully do c-sections after just a day of labor, citing failure to progress as the justification. And I had been in labor for literally 17 weeks. I had endured my hell, and he wanted to help it end for me with a c-section.
After that, I didn't feel another contraction. They never stopped, even as th doctor cut through the soft layers of my abdomen. And I was prepared for the silence that follows a cesarean birth. The birth canal doesn't squeeze the fluid from the baby, and often they need to be suctioned. Plus this was a baby who was early. The last to develop is the lungs. He may need help. But from the instant he was exposed to this world, my son let out the lustiest cry I have ever heard in a newborn. And tears choked my voice as I shouted out that his lungs were okay, long before I had ever laid eyes on his beauty.
There is not a day that goes by in my life wih Evan and John when I don't look at my little family and have waking nigtmares of what could have been. Where I do not thank God for the sloppy kisses and brown eyes that sparkle with laughter and amazement and wonder. Where I do not count my blessings. He truly is my Evan from Heaven. Our miracle. A tribute to God or Allah or the science of modern medicine. Or maybe a mother and father's determination.

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