I never thought I'd get preeclampsia. And on Tuesday, September 29, I really didn't think I would leave my doctor's appointment with anything other than advice to keep myself on bed rest. That's not what happened though. After a round of NST (Forrest still looked great) and a blood pressure check (not so great), my doctor informed me that she thought it was time: she could no longer guarantee that I wouldn't move further into severe preeclampsia and, ultimately, eclampsia. I was sent to labor and delivery with the understanding that I would be having a baby.
In theory, I wasn't scared of having a baby. In fact, I felt pretty ok about the actual, medical process. However, the prospect of welcoming my child into the world, three and a half weeks early, was an entirely different thing.
I went on my merry way anyway. At 11:30, I was in labor & delivery, in a room, and Danny was on his way to me. By 2:30, I had an IV in (an adventure in itself) and received my first dose of misoprostal, a medication that my doctor assured me was the "gateway" to induction, but wouldn't actually put me into labor.
Well, hold onto your butts, because misoprostal did just that. The way misoprostal works, in induction settings, is that you receive three doses four hours apart and no more. It is supposed to prepare your cervix for delivery, but not necessarily put you into labor. However, after three doses, I went into labor. Unfortunately, after my second dose, around 10:30pm, I also got an Ambien to help me sleep. As a result, all my memories of labor feel like super surreal dreams and I have some vague, odd memories where I can't exactly figure out what the hell I was thinking.
I remember my water breaking (I blearily called a nurse and said something like, "Something is coming out of me?"). I remember being talked into getting in the jacuzzi tubs (rather than get an early epidural) and hating it: it wasn't warm enough, it wasn't enough water, everything hurt. I remember getting an epidural and fighting through a contraction (and the unending desire to push) as they inserted the needle. And of course, I remember the blissful painlessness afterwards. A vast majority of my memories, otherwise, are dedicated to my doctor saying, "Wow, she's at 10 centimeters, it's time" and then, pushing. It was 8:00am by that time (although I didn't really know that) and I'd been awake, on Ambien, for most of the night.
I've heard women say this before, but I never truly believed it. However, I know it's true now: when it comes time to actually have the baby, it doesn't matter how tired, scared, or in pain you are. You do whatever it takes to get that thing out. It's a primal instinct that just takes over. Well, at least that's how it was for me.
I still remember the bleary feeling of him being plopped onto my chest, naked, a little stunned, and... peeing. The kid peed on me within 5 minutes of life. C'est la vie. (Really, this is the best memory to have.)
The next days in the hospital blur together: at first, everything was going according to plan. And then, Forrest lost too much weight. Then, he developed jaundice and required a light suit. The jaundice didn't get better. He got more time in the light suit. It felt like centuries, all running together in the tiny space of a hospital room. (Admittedly, my time was made worse by my own uncomfortable recovery and the looming terror of the hospital bill over my head.) Just when Danny and I were beginning to go stir crazy, we got the ok to leave the hospital--if we took Forrest for a subsequent blood test and pediatrician appointment the next day.
The problem with late pre-term babies (Forrest is technically a preemie, although he doesn't have many of the health problems that plague earlier preemies) is that they are difficult eaters. Forrest falls asleep before he's done eating or spends the entire day sleeping, meaning Danny and I have to rouse him every two hours, round the clock, to eat. (And yes, we have to wake him up every two hours at night too--it's just the way it is!) Since he didn't have the chance to gain fat and weight in the last weeks of gestation, he's very skinny, has trouble regulating his own body temperature, and uses too much energy breastfeeding. That last one is important: there is no "your turn" when it comes to those every-two-hours feedings because I have to pump every two hours, to make food for Forrest and to keep my milk supply going. It's all worth it though, no matter how tired I am during the day or how much I start to drift off while trying to watch a movie.
Sometimes, it feels completely surreal to look at Forrest: to think that for a long time, he was inside of me, a part of me. I made him out of my own body and some borrowed genetic material. I dedicated 8 months and a few days to growing him, nurturing him, creating him. It's incredible to see him now: his delicate little chin, his chubby cherubic cheeks, his dark eyes. I wondered what he would be like for so long and here he is, the strangest dream that ever came true.