Thursday, June 18, 2009

Birth Story No. 1, Pt. 2

I felt the first small contraction Tuesday morning just before a doctor from the NICU came up to speak with me about what I might expect with a baby born six weeks premature. I can't really remember much of what he said. Probably because of the contractions--tiny twinges in my lower abdomen. I was relieved I wouldn't have to be induced, but fearful of what lie ahead. This baby was going to be born. Six weeks early. She was so little.

I labored for 27 hours from then on. The really painful back labor began about 12 hours later, and I thank my dear Tom for rubbing my back as the contractions came about every 1 1/2 minutes all through the night. He would fall asleep for a few seconds between contractions, only to be awaken by my requests for more back rubs.

I was relieved to see my parents arrive the next morning just as I was getting the epidural. At about 24 hours in, I was totally exhausted. The pain lessened considerably. I was told to rest. I may have even slept. Later I was put on Pitocin to get the contractions moving along again. And before long, with Tom on my left, my mom on my right, and my dad standing nearby, it was time to push. And it was empowering to feel like after all those painful hours, I was finally working toward something.

About an hour later my lovely Valerie was born. She weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. She was 17 3/4 inches long. Tom was the first to hold her. He brought her to me all swaddled up after her initial examinations. She was so precious, looking at me with tiny little eyes. I was totally overwhelmed with joyful love. Then she was whisked away to the NICU where she would live for the first 2 weeks of her life.

I pumped milk for her every three to four hours on the hospital-grade pump I'd been supplied with. I was constantly washing the bottles and pumping equipment, because I was constantly pumping. I became obsessed with the cleanliness of the pumping supplies. I felt so helpless to care for Valerie, it was the only thing I could control. I would bring several containers of milk for her each morning.

So much of those two weeks is a blur, yet as I concentrate on recalling it, it is amazing the details that surface. Truly, the whole experience is etched in my memory. We spent our days and much of our nights at the hospital holding Valerie, talking to her doctors and nurses. We watched her lose, then regain weight; quickly progress through various respiratory therapies as her lungs grew stronger; pull the feeding tube out of her nose a number of times; learn to suck milk from a bottle, and later to breastfeed.

But Tom and I will never forget the morning Valerie's doctor called us and said we could take her home that day. Elation! We could finally bring our baby girl home! She weighed 4 lbs., 9 oz., at the time. Up 2 oz. from her lowest weight. I was worried about her being so little, but the doctor assured me that she was as healthy as any other baby, just small.

No one could ever give me a reason why Valerie came early. Not even anxiety. I think she was just impatient about meeting her mama and daddy.

Even though she wasn't nearly as tiny or needy as the 2 1/2 pound baby in the crib next to her in the NICU, it was still traumatic for me to give birth to a preemie. And I had never planned on having an epidural. And I had dreamed of my baby being placed on my belly right after birth, and nursing soon after. Nothing happened the way I had imagined or expected.

I think I have told this story close to 100 times. I had to before I would be ready to have another child. But that is another story.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Sara that sounds like it would have been an emotional marathon. Glad you all mad it through to better days.