I woke up at about 1:20 am this morning and lay awake for a while thinking about what was going on 11 years ago at that moment. Â I was on an operating table, numb from the tits down, my arms outstretched and bound. Â And, no, it wasn’t a super kinky medical scene. Â My daughter was about to emerge from my body, alien-style, rather than through the opening created for that purpose.
I was only 31 weeks pregnant, my body hadn’t even considered going into labor. Â I was having an emergency c-section because I’d die otherwise. Â There wasn’t any time to wait and see if I’d improve: Â pre-eclampsia, or gestational hyper-tension,Â has one cure — giving birth. Â And I had an extra bundle of life-threatening symptoms, calledÂ HELLP syndrome, which meant my liver was failing, I was becoming rapidly more anemic and my platelet count was dropping. Â So ready or not, it was time for my daughter to come into the world. Â They had to do it before my platelet count dropped so low I couldn’t clot. Or my liver failed, or .. well, there was basically no waiting.
Prior to that moment, I’d been on bed-rest, which I considered about as pleasurable as teeth pulling without anesthesia. Â My wife and I were prepared for me to be on my back for as many weeks as it took to keep the baby gestating. Â As it happened, I was on bed rest for about 4 days, as my condition rapidly worsened. Â I had blood taken and tested a couple of times after the initial diagnosis, and those tests led my midwife to reduce her prediction from weeks to maybe a week, or slightly more. Â My body was not handling late pregnancy well at all.
This all started Wednesday, and by Sunday, I felt horrible. Â I had band-pain under my ribs that initially felt like a back ache. Â My midwife suggested I try soaking in the tub, we were both hoping this was my body’s reaction to the bedrest. Â Instead, the pain increased, and I had a hard time breathing — as if it weren’t already hard enough with an entire human being plus living space taking up most of my torso. Â I started feelingÂ nauseous, did I have the flu? Â My wife had been sick the day before, throwing up and feeling miserable. Â Upon hearing that I was close to puking, my midwife told us to get to the hospital, that she’d meet us there.
I threw up at the check in desk, into a garbage can. Â I was hustled into a wheel chair and taken to maternity, where I was hooked up to monitors, given magnesium sulfate. Â Blood tests showed that my indicators had all worsened a lot more since the test on Friday. Â Our midwife told us that we’d be parents in a matter of days, rather than weeks. Â We went to our local hospital sometime after 4 pm and I was in an ambulance heading to Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center a few hours later.
This part of the experience is blurry for me. Â The mag sulfate acted like alcohol on my brain, making it hard to keep track of the passage of time, sequence of events, or people I met and talked to — basically, it was a partial black-out. Â What I do recall is that we were completely unprepared for this acceleration of events. Â It was more than 2 months before my due date, we hadn’t packed a hospital bag, we didn’t have our address book (this is well before we had cell phones) and we were certainly not prepared to suddenly be out of town. Â After getting to the hospital, my wife called our best friend to bring her up to date and to request she go by our house and pick up a few things. Â Best Friend and my parents were at the hospital by 11 pm. Â Hospital staff was still doing tests and tracking my condition. Â My brand new OB doc showed up and requested an ultrasound to see how our baby was doing. Â That’s when we found out she was much smaller than she should have been at 31 weeks, about half the normal size in fact. Â Based on that and the fact that my blood test results kept coming back with worse and worse numbers, we were told we’d become parents in just Â a couple of hours.
At 1 am, I was in surgery, spinal block administered and abdomen iodined. Â As my surgery began, a small group (2-3) nurses gathered in one corner of the room with a small plastic box on wheels. Â I realized, slowly through my drugged fogginess, that they were there for my baby. Â My baby had her own staff of specialists already.
At 1:34 am, Mrs. Kyle and I welcomed our daughter into the world. Â Well, by welcomed, I mean, we breathed a sigh of relief as soon as we heard her voice, crying in that classic just-born way. Â The baby team took charge and was about to whisk her off to the NICU when I asked to see her. Â I knew I couldn’t hold her, but I needed to see her face at least. Â And that’s what I got, a glimpse of her face, held up inside the plastic box, from across the room. Â A Tiny little face, all wrinkled and red, butÂ definitelyÂ alive.
My wife went with the baby, I went to the recovery room. Â After about 20 minutes, my wife rejoined me and told me about the baby and all the things going on to take care of her. Â She was tiny-tiny, only 2 lbs 3 ozs and 14 inches long. Â She was being hooked up to all kinds of monitors and machines but she was breathing on her own.
I got to see her again, briefly. Â I got to see the Spawn again, once all the numbness had passed — I was cursing my left foot because it took so long. Â They wheeled me up in my gurney, and I shifted over on my side so I could peer at her through the thick plastic of the isolette. Â She looked like a little alien, all skin and bones, wrinkled and wizened. Â In fact, she looked a lot like my Dad. Â The only muscle she had on her tiny body was in her calves.. and I can attest to her use of those muscles to kick me with.
I was in the hospital for 4 days, the Spawn was in the NICU for 3 weeks and in the nursery at Olympia for another 3 weeks. Â I gave birth on a Monday and the following Monday, I was back at work part-time. Â There was no sense staying home, I didn’t have a baby to take care of and gush over. Â When we finally brought her home, she weighed 3 lbs and 14 ozs, still tiny but very healthy. Â She never had any of the big scary health issues a lot of preemies have, being able t0 breath on her own from the start and surprised her nurses and doctors at every turn with the progress she made. Â She was early, and tiny, but a fighter and full of personality from the start.
Here she is at 41 hours old, getting a little bit of skin time with me. Â She could only be out of her isolette for small amounts of time a day. Â She was so little, with her knees tucked up, she fit right into my cleavage. Â She looked like a little kangaroo baby, not wanting to be out of her pouch.
Happy birthday to my Elder Spawn, who is now a very big girl, a beautiful daughter and a wonderful older sister. Â You bring so much joy, and also challenge, to my life, which is as it should be. Â Thank you for being so amazing.
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