I don’t remember much about the day my daughter was born other than what I’ve already written.
Here’s what I’ve been told: I needed two bags of blood after hemorrhaging; I knew who I was but not where, so I had a CAT scan at three in the morning to check for signs of a stroke; and at some point during all of this, possibly because of the magnesium sulphate IV drip, my heart rate dropped to seven beats per minute.
Seven beats per minute.
One of my nurses was five months pregnant, and big enough for me to notice nothing except for the baby belly. The belly set me off when I wasn’t best friends with reality.
I had a nightmare that kept my blood pressure high for days. In my nightmare, the pregnant nurse handed me a pair of scissors and told me to cut my baby. She said that every baby who was born by c-section was only allowed to survive because another baby had been scarred or killed.
If I didn’t cut my baby another baby would die. It was the circle of life. A baby before mine had died to pave the way for us. It was our turn.
It was terrifying because I honestly believed that the nurse wanted me to cut my baby’s stomach open with scissors. The nurse who was in charge of my life in the ICU.
Tim stayed with me to keep me calm and rational. He sat in an uncomfortable armchair beside my bed until I fell asleep at night, and then he slept in the Quiet Room a few feet away. He was also there for our daughter, who was stuck in NICU while I was getting better.
He rubbed my head and told me jokes. He listened to my paranoid ramblings, took my fear seriously and helped me see what was real and what was not. He picked me up out of bed, put me in a wheelchair and brought me over to our baby whenever the nurses said my blood pressure was stable enough.
His love was the only thing that dispersed my fear long enough to lower my blood pressure. His effect on me was more powerful than the labetalol they were feeding me through IV.
How did I get to be so lucky?
When I was finally moved to the maternity ward after days in the ICU, my roommate was also moved from ICU. She had preeclampsia much earlier in her pregnancy than I did, and her baby was born way before term.
She was fine, but her baby would have to stay in NICU for weeks. Her story made me want to curl up beside her in her hospital bed and brush her bangs out of her eyes. She actually lived an hour north of the hospital, and she could only stay in her room for five days. After that, she had to find a hotel, or pay per day to use the hospital’s family house.
Her little preemie was fighting for his life, trying to use his underdeveloped lungs in the incubator next to our plump little baby. Our baby was perfect; she was whole.
My roommate had to listen to our baby cry and coo when we were able to bring her into our room. She had to listen to the lactation consultant give me breastfeeding tips. She was an uninvited guest to our joyous celebration while her little baby struggled down the hall. It must have been heartbreaking.
As for me, the luckiest girl in the world, I was the live, proud new mom to a perfect baby girl. And I woke up in the hospital basically the same girl I was before I was sick. I can’t tell you if it was the drugs, the detox effect of ICU, or some kind of near-death phenomenon that righted me.
I could have basically been right after the heart meds, but didn’t give myself enough time to fully adjust before getting pregnant. Or something else was happening.
Whatever it is, here I am, the luckiest girl in the world. My husband loves me unconditionally. My baby and I are alive. I am myself again.
Life after that experience has been amazing so far.