In fifteen hours, we’ll be meeting our new little one; by this time tomorrow, I’ll be recovering from surgery and—I hope—nursing a tiny, shocked newborn. By this time tomorrow I’ll be off the antepartum floor and onto the floor where babies are crying and new parents are happy. I can’t wait.
The baby seems excited, as though she knows something’s about to happen. She’s been more active than usual, flipping around determinedly; her heartrate tracings during today’s non-stress test were filled with dramatic peaks. The nurse monitoring me said my baby always has the best tracings—“shows up all the other babies” were her words. Eager as I am to have this pregnancy over and done with, part of me does feel sad that this baby is missing out on three weeks in the womb. But all this was not up to me. She can take it up with the placenta.
By this weekend, I’ll be home. The very idea of it fills me with relief and calm, even though nothing about my homecoming is going to be calm. I’ve never had a C-section, of course, but I know the sheer physical strain these early days impart—the painful start to breastfeeding, engorgement (will I escape this time?), bleeding, molecular-level exhaustion. All of it, this time, compounded with the C-section recovery and the perhaps heightened demands of a toddler facing a huge family transition.
The thought of the physical hurdles ahead makes me weary, but I know there will be happiness in there too: a new appreciation for home and our daily routines, a new fondness for even the more difficult toddler moments, the luxury of having Andrew home for weeks, and the wisdom of knowing this time that all those early, hard, infant days do come to an end. And then, soon enough, there will be little matching outfits, walks to take together, stories to read, crafts to make, giggling in playhuts. Yes, much of this is a touch far off in the future, but it’s there in my mind’s eye.
But first things first, starting at 7:30 tomorrow morning. And onward from there.
First, my C-section has returned to its originally scheduled date of October 27, 7:30am. I am disappointed, but since my time slot on the 26th was at 4pm, I’m reminding myself this is a difference of just 15 hours.
Time has slowed down considerably now that the end is in sight. For me, anyway. Andrew is running around like crazy, trying to get all the last-minute baby-coming-home details taken care of. But here in the hospital, my days are inching by. The problem is that I have left Forks: the world of the Twilight books. Terrible as they were, they were utterly absorbing, and I enjoyed both reading them and texting amusing-to-me academic-essay topics to Molly (“Bella is willing to become a vampire but not a wife. Discuss in the context of gender roles and the Facebook generation.” “Neither Edward nor Aro can read Bella’s thoughts. Discuss what this implies about the efficacy of prayer.”) But now I have finished books one, two, and three, and the final book is swimming in the postal system. Out of Forks, time has resumed its plodding pace.
So I have transported myself, instead, to Panem, the world of The Hunger Games. Having little foresight, however, I purchased only the first book of the series, which I promptly finished in less than two days. I have four days to go. And this has driven me to take a heretofore unthinkable step: to Andrew’s glee, I requested that he bring me his Kindle today. I feel like I’ve betrayed myself in the worst way, all my firm beliefs about books and pages and ink and etc., but at the same time I suppose I’m willing to accept that this is an extenuating circumstance. I’ve always said that maybe, maybe, I’d agree to read digital books if I were taking an around-the-world trip and had to pack lightly; perhaps I’ll now expand that to include hospital bedrest.
The Kindle now sits on my hospital-bedside table, waiting, waiting. But don’t be fooled: this will not resolve the central disjunct of our marriage (Andrew supports us by working in the world of e-books; I scorn e-books). It is temporary, just as other unpleasant things are temporary: hospital bedrest, eating every meal with plastic silverware, every-three-days blood draws, seeing Lucia for only a few hours each week. Surely it is the least of all the evils I’ve had to endure.
Astute readers will notice that we’ve skipped a day in the countdown. This is not a mistake—my C-section has been moved up one day, to Wednesday, October 26, which means my hospital adventure will come to an end one day sooner. The change has nothing to do with anything medical; just my doctor shifting around her schedule. (And she assured me there was nothing problematic about my already-large baby.) So the end is truly in sight.
I am more ready than ever to get home. Lucia has a cold, and I want to be there for sick-baby snuggling; she visited today and spent most of the time just sitting on my lap, playing with her Minnie Mouse, not even venturing closer to our other visitors, a friend and her two-and-a-half-month-old baby.
And I’m ready to get off the 14th floor—Antepartum—where my condition, though technically high-risk, pales in comparison to what I’ve been hearing about the other women. I haven’t had a Big Bleed, I’m otherwise healthy, and the health and well-being of my baby has never once been in question, even when I was first admitted—if she’d been born then, she might have had a bit of NICU time, but she ultimately would have been fine. But my previous roommate, whom I wrote about in the last post, did end up delivering her 25-week-old baby, who was just over one pound and is looking at a three-month NICU stay and who knows what complications. She also, in the same delivery, had to deliver the baby’s dead twin. I’m not entirely sure how you ever get over something like that. And my current roommate, who arrived last night, just found out her 22-week-old pregnancy is no longer viable because there is almost no amniotic fluid; her water broke, and I heard the doctors telling her the pregnancy would have to be terminated. (I obviously don’t know all the details. I know only the bits I’ve heard through the curtain.)
Anyway—it’s all horrible, hearing these poor girls crying over on the other side of the room while I read the Twilight books and watch ABC sitcoms on my computer and enjoy visits from my beautiful daughter and await the arrival of a kicking, already thriving second daughter. I know there are reasons for keeping me here, but I definitely feel like a fraud, and a very fortunate one at that. It feels like the worst kind of gloating to even have a picture of Lucia tacked up by my bed.
Here I am, on hospital bedrest—with nothing but time to write my monthly COMMENTARY. As I read this month’s issue, lots of things jumped out at me, perhaps because I was an unusually captive audience. Let’s get to it.
Trouble, once again, from the cover—another celebrity-with-baby, this time Bethenny something or other, a reality TV person, with her baby. This issue also featured an interview with Gwen Stefani; a page detailing how you, dear reader, and your child can dress like Ellen Pompeo and hers; and an article by an NBA player about being a good dad. The interviews were particularly egregious. I have no idea if Bethenny or Gwen are actually vapid and senseless in their real lives, but these interviews did not do anything to make me think otherwise. Take, for instance, Gwen’s comment on her fashion troubles:
“I’ve always been attracted to Japanese kids’ clothes, but they’re so hard to shop for—the websites are always in Japanese!”
COMMENTARY: Seriously, world: Why can’t everyone just speak English? It’s so unfair for us English speakers to not understand what’s being written online by people in other countries. Forget Occupy Wall Street. Perhaps Gwen, backed by Parenting, can start a movement to switch the world over to English.
But poor Gwen; you can’t blame her for struggling through this interview when you see that she was confronted by questions like this:
“Are you like us—do you ever run into Target for a toothbrush and end up spending $157 on stuff?”
COMMENTARY: Everyone, interviewer, spends too much at Target. And everyone has at some point complained that they can’t get out of Target without spending a hundred dollars. But note that figure: When making a hyperbolic complaint, the numbers generally aren’t so…specific. $157 is just a weird number. $50, or $100, or even $150—but $157? It’s just odd. All this said, I look forward to perhaps getting my two (!) little girls something cute and trendy from Gwen’s upcoming Harajuku Mini collection at Target.
Onward: to perhaps the most irritating article to date in Parenting. It’s a bold statement, I know, especially since I’m referring to an article that’s only 133 words long. (Yes, I counted the words. I’m on hospital bedrest—what else do I have to do?) The article is grating because it is full of “wordplay.” Whoever wrote this article got a little carried away on all the “humorous” ways to employ snack-related words and phrases. The article, “Chip Off the Old Block,” concerns the alarming rise of snacking in America, and aside from the title (chip! ha!), here are the other puns ‘n’ fun: ---Generation Goldfish ---Do as I say, not as I Dorito. ---son of a Funyun!
COMMENTARY: I have to admit, I can’t quite parse “son of a Funyun!” in a way that makes any kind of sense. Here’s the context: “…[S]ome kids [snack] as often as ten times a day (son of a Funyun!).” As I read it, it could have two possible meanings. First, the writer is going for a play on “son of a gun,” as in, “Son of a gun, that kid snacks a lot.” Or, the writer might be referring to a child who snacks ten times a day as a “son of a Funyun”—as in, “Any kid who snacks that much must be descended from the Funyun.” Neither of these make any sense at all, of course. And what on earth is a Funyun? Is it like a bloomin’ onion, which I would kill for right now? Son of a Funyun, I could go for a bloomin’ onion.
Speaking of snacks, we turn now to an article called “Play With Your Food,” which suggests ways to make healthy eating fun for kids. It includes the not-surprising statistic (gleaned from an undocumented source) that “50% of kids will choose broccoli over chocolate if it has an Elmo sticker on it,” which would probably hold true for Lucia. But it also includes this little bit of brilliance:
“1. Try app-y meals. Fooducate…is a mobile app that lets you scan any food with a bar code to get a quick letter grade for how real and healthy it is.”
COMMENTARY: But…but…the healthiest foods, like fruits and vegetables, don’t have bar codes. If the point is to encourage kids to choose healthy food by letting them play with an app to select said food, then you’ve automatically eliminated the best part of the grocery store! If we’re to go along with this “game,” the cart would be full of fruit roll-ups instead of fresh fruit, and Pirate Booty instead of veggies. Seems ill thought out.
This is turning into a long post—but it sure is making the day fly by. On we go to the meat of this issue: the interview with Bethenny Frankel. There is just so much here that I don’t even know where to start. I think I’ll just go line by line with a few of the best bits.
“Bryn’s not drinking enough milk right now, but that has nothing to do with me.” “Sometimes I accidentally give Bryn food that’s just a little too hot. … What can you do?”
COMMENTARY: Lucia ate nothing but chocolate-chip cookies for five straight days, but that has nothing to do with me, even though I bought the cookies, gave them to her when she asked for them, and didn’t cook anything else. And when I noticed that the mouse in our apartment had chewed into the package and nibbled some of the cookies, I accidentally still gave them to her. But what can you do? [NOTE: This scenario has been made up. We do have a mouse. But it does not eat Lucia’s food. And so far she’s had three cookies total in her whole life. Well, maybe just a couple more than that.]
“People think I have the perfect husband and perfect life, and it’s just not the case.”
COMMENTARY: People always think Andrew’s so great (Oh, he’s so nice! So thoughtful! So welcoming!), but it’s just not the case. People always look in from the outside and see this rosy picture without seeing the dark side: the sports-watching, the Fantasy Football fixation, the insistence that I don’t dump coffee grounds all over the rim of the trash can. Look deeper, people. Look deeper.
Next up: yet another app suggestion. (Parenting should change its name to “Suggestions for Apps.”) This one is called Swackett, and it’s designed to help us figure out what to wear each day:
“If it’s cold, the ‘peeps’ appear dressed in winter hats, coats, and boots. Check it before the fam heads outside.”
COMMENTARY: Because looking at the temperature is just so hard.
Finally, a shout-out to the Overzealous Copyeditor: Congratulations—Parenting readers are learning from you! Without your having to say a thing, OC, parent-contributors (via Facebook, surely) have adopted your over-explaining style and hypervigilance. Bask in the glow of your life’s work, right here:
“We make an indoor obstacle course. … We keep track of the times, and the best chooses a healthy snack.”
COMMENTARY: Because, son of a Funyun!, choosing something like a cookie would be so very, very wrong to encourage. Yay for the parents with raw broccoli florets at the ready.
Until next time—my very first COMMENTARY written as the mother of two kids. I’ll either have copious COMMENTARY or, zombie-like, none at all.
I had an ultrasound today to check the baby’s size, and I was stunned: she is currently an estimated 7 pounds 2 ounces. If I were carrying this baby to term, does this mean she’d be a gigantic baby? At first I was relieved that she definitely won’t be a tiny preemie when she’s born; but later in the day the high-risk doctor who checked in said size really won’t make a difference in whether her lungs will be okay. I’ve learned to take these statements calmly. When I talk to my doctor or the doctors in her group, they all are much more certain that all will be well; I think the high-risk doctors just have a more…high-risk view of things. But I am anxious to ask my own doctor if I need to be concerned about my new baby’s surprising chubbiness.
Lucia, though far from chubby, has reached a milestone: she’s surpassed the tenth percentile for weight! Andrew took her to her two-year checkup today, and she weighs 23 pounds, putting her in the twelfth percentile. She’s in the fifty-second percentile for height. So she’s doing some good growing. (Mom said she asked for soup for a snack yesterday—so she’s probably getting more nutrients than her little sister, who’s subsisting on hospital food and chocolate-chip cookies.) Andrew also said Lucia was upset at the shot she had to get, but became absolutely enraged when the nurse put a Band-Aid on her: he said she screamed bloody murder, pulled the Band-Aid off, and threw it at the nurse. Little charmer!
Lucia and Mom came to visit today, always a bright spot in my days. I fear, however, that my chocolate-chip cookie bribery is working against me—I’m starting to suspect she enjoys her visits here because of the cookie. But no matter. She’s adorable and cuddly, and I feel so lucky to have both her and a baby who is 35 weeks 6 days along.
My newest roommate, here for two nights, is only 25 weeks along; initially pregnant with twins, she lost one of the twins a few weeks ago, and on Sunday she was admitted for contractions and bleeding. Today she went into labor. It’s incredibly sad, the only one of my roommates so far to really have a terrible story. (Of course, I have no idea how her story will wind up in the end.) So, awful as it may sometimes seem to be on hospital bedrest with the “Big Bleed” around the corner and Lucia far away, all in all I’m feeling pretty lucky.
If you calculate my remaining hospital time in a generous way—not counting today or the day of my C-section—then there are nine days left of this maddening in-betweenness. In nine days, we will have another baby—and even though there are three more nights of recovery after that, it will be different from this waiting period, this state of quasi-life. Nine days till we can finally meet this new little one and make our grand entrance once again into sleepless, chaotic, all-encompassing Newborn Land. Two boxes of newborn-size diapers arrived last week, giving Andrew a little jolt—those diapers are unbelievably tiny. He brought some to me in my hospital bag, and they look like something we should be putting on Lucia’s stuffed animals.
Today I asked my doctor whether there was any chance of making it to 38 weeks if I didn’t have a Big Bleed; she said she would never allow a patient with CPP to go beyond 37 weeks. I have no desire to stay an extra minute in the hospital, but of course I want to give the baby as much growing time as possible, so I felt obligated to ask. Fortunately, the doctor said that even if I gave birth today, the baby would be fine—she was already a good size two weeks ago, at 5 pounds 5 ounces; larger, she said, then two full-term babies she’d delivered last week. This was reassuring to hear. I’ll have another ultrasound this week to check her growth.
Considering the steroid shots I got, the baby’s size, and the fact that I’m 35.5 weeks along, no one seems very worried anymore about me or the baby. She breezes through her non-stress test each morning, creating beautiful heart-rate “tracings,” already a straight-A student. It’s just time now to wait. Nine days.
To my great relief, all signs are pointing to the happy possibility that Lucia will not be scarred for life by this extended separation (or by her delayed birthday celebration). So I thought I would devote a post to how brave and flexible she’s proven to be over the past few weeks. I expected her visits here to be wary, tearful affairs, but they have proven to be anything but. I usually hear her saying “Hi! Hi!” before she even comes into the room, and she eagerly hugs me hello—then heads straight for the huge bag of books, coloring books, and markers we keep here. She generally sits right down in my lap for a reading of our favorite hospital book, Kitten’s Winter. She has a set of little medicine-dosage cups she always plays with for a few minutes, and she generally indulges in many, many snacks—usually a bagel and/or muffin that Andrew and Mom get on their way over.
On the days when I don’t have a roommate, she loves to run around the room-dividing curtain, hiding and then reappearing at either end with a big grin. She likes to sit underneath the wheely hospital-bed table, in the U-shaped area where the wheels are attached. She calls it her boat. She likes to walk on the wheel-covering bar, using it like a balance beam. And we always finish off the visit with a few Elmo videos on my computer. Then she gets a chocolate-chip cookie for the journey home. (The cookie, to be honest, is bribery that works splendidly, letting us get her shoes on and get her strapped back into the stroller.)
“Bye bye,” she always says with a wave, and she’s started giving me big hugs and kisses before she leaves, too. No tears for her. There have been many tears from me, though it’s getting better. Andrew said that when he says it’s time to go visit Mama, Lucia says seriously, “Mama cry.”
At home she seems to be as happy, playful, and active as ever. She sometimes seems confused at bedtime—should Grandma give the bottle? should Daddy?—and she’s done her share of testing (Surely Daddy will let me take this armload of toys into the crib tonight…) but otherwise she seems to have adapted to her new circumstances with nary a blip.
Ten days till delivery. Brave and grown-up as Lucia’s proven herself to be, I can’t wait to get home and resume our old ways. I never thought I’d miss fielding her endless requests for “Snack! Snack!” and cleaning up said snack in her wake…but it’s my job to refill those little bowls with bunnies and Cheerios and raisins and fruit, and I’m itching to get back to it.
I can’t believe that we are apart on your second birthday. It is wrong, and terrible, and though you don’t understand the particular terribleness, I do. You are home with Daddy and Grandma, while I am in the hospital, staying still and safe and quiet to make sure your little sister has as much time to cook as possible. Much as I want to rush her along, I know she needs just a little more time. Someday you’ll understand this.
Because I am here, and you are home, on your second birthday, your father and I have made a decision: to pretend today is not your birthday. Imagining you opening your gifts in a hospital room, or having cupcakes and singing “Happy Birthday” without me at home, is unfathomable, heartbreaking. And so we are going to wait until I am home to celebrate. We will give you your gifts, and get balloons, and make cupcakes, and sing “Happy Birthday,” in two weeks’ time, when this separation is finally over. I have to trust that you will have no idea of the difference, that you won’t be scarred for life at this grand deception.
Of course, when I see you this morning during your visit, all I will be thinking about is that my little girl is two. Two!
In the weeks before my hospitalization, and even more so in the two weeks since, you have been growing and changing at warp speed. You are growing bigger—some of the 2T pants are too small already, since you have such long legs and such a long torso. You are eating more, and you have a plump baby face now, cheeks that swell like little apples when you smile. And you are talking up a storm, soaking up new words and phrases like a sponge. You babble constantly, and it’s so entertaining to listen to you—it is often your very own language, which you use consistently; one of these days I’ll understand it all.
Every time you visit me in the hospital you look older and seem to say more things, and I miss spending every day with you so I can witness all the changes as soon as they happen.
You love going to the playground these days, and you’ve gotten so much more active and daring—ladders, hanging from things, walking over a shaky balance beam. You’ve gotten much more social—playing with other children sometimes, greeting strangers in elevators, even hugging your Music Together teacher when you were there this week with Grandma. You are still my quiet, bookish little one, but other sides of you are coming out now, which is so much fun to see.
You still adore your stuffed animals, and you’ve been playing with a new sticker book that Grandma brought you. You love watching Elmo videos online, and you of course still love reading books. Being apart from you for the past nearly two weeks, it is a bit unnerving to not know what’s occupied your attention at home during this time. But whenever I call I hear you in the background, chattering buoyantly, so I know whatever it is you’re doing is making you happy.
This is a big birthday for you—your last as an only child—and I wish desperately we could celebrate today. But in a way it will be nice to celebrate once I’m home with your sister, to reaffirm right away that you are still our little baby whom we adore more than words can describe. You’ve been so flexible and adaptable these past couple of weeks, and I know you’re going to make the transition to big sisterhood easily as well (eventually, at least). But today, and when we actually celebrate your birthday, I hope you know that what I want more than anything is to sit together and snuggle on the couch with my adorable firstborn. Soon, little one, soon.
Here on the hospital’s antepartum floor, there’s no talk of natural labor, or water breaking, or going into labor, or anything at all not having to do with a C-section. The precise timing of these C-sections is a regular topic of discussion among the high-risk doctors, who, I’ve gathered, regularly meet to discuss the case of each woman on the floor. My doctor stopped in this morning and told me there had been some discussion over whether my C-section should still happen at 37 weeks or should be pushed up to 36. The consensus was that as long as I’m in-house, we should hold out as long as possible (up to 37 weeks); if something happens, they can always just section me.
“Section” me. This is the lingo in the world of complicated pregnancies, a bizarre and somewhat violent-sounding verb that makes what’s happening sound a lot more aggressive than the alternative, “do a C-section” or “have a C-section.” “We’ll section you”—it sounds like something Solomon would propose. A C-section is a noun, an unremarkable procedure; the transitive verb “section” is an attack (albeit a routine and life-saving one).
Besides the language, I find all this discussion and debate almost unbelievable. I feel perfectly healthy. I look perfectly healthy. Nothing is wrong with me—and yet a very big thing is wrong with me. I asked my doctor this morning whether it was possible for someone with complete placenta previa (CPP, in message-board lingo) to get to 37 weeks without having a major bleed. She said no one can predict what will happen, but she seemed doubtful that I’d escape with only the one minor bleed I’ve had. All the doctors are in complete agreement that I cannot go home to Park Slope.
This all seems completely crazy. I don’t feel like a ticking bomb. I feel bored and sad and frustrated about not being with Andrew and Lucia; I feel beyond awful for being in the hospital over Lucia’s birthday (more on this in another post). But a ticking bomb? One errant contraction away from the Big Bleed? Insanity. I feel like I’m trapped in a Bizarro world where everything seems normal but I have oh, I don’t know, a huge horn growing out of my back, invisible to me but shocking and dangerous to everyone else.
Ha. “Finally, time to read!” is one of those things I always assumed I’d feel if I were placed on bedrest. It seems logical. I have nothing to do—every single hour of my day is free, and I’m not allowed to move anywhere but within this room. Reading seems the logical—the glorious!—way to pass the time.
The problem is that I cannot concentrate. At all. And everything I do manage to read, I hate. I can’t get into anything, can’t lose myself in books like I’ve always been able to, in pretty much any other circumstance. Long plane rides. Long airport waits. Long waits for anything. Subway rides. Long spells when Lucia was born and napping long infant naps in my lap. But here, at the hospital—it’s not working. I’m away from home, away from my husband and child, and though I’m not exactly thinking about anything else, my mind is so scattered that I simply cannot remember what’s happened from the top of the page to the bottom.
I have some things to try. I’m awaiting an Amazon order with two Penelope Lively books, plus the first volume of The Hunger Games. I borrowed a Sue Grafton novel from the hospital’s roving library cart. Andrew’s going to bring me Anna Karenina. But the only thing I can work up any real desire to read is the Twilight series. I need something that will rope me in, make the hours fly by, and require little to no brainpower. I need thrillers and mysteries with not-too-complicated plots. Is there another Dan Brown coming out anytime soon?
My current roommate, an Ivy Leaguer with a law degree, has been reading Harlequins, so I know I’m not alone in this inability to focus on anything with any intellectual component at all. In the meantime, awaiting reading inspiration, I’m watching episodes of TV shows online. Sixteen days to go…
Today was not a good day. Andrew, Lucia, and Mom came to visit, which was both great and awful, because seeing Lucia just makes me frantically want to go home. I was so miserable after her departure that my pulse went up enough to alarm the nurse, who advised me that getting so upset was not beneficial to me or the baby. Not good.
Then, on a day when Andrew brought breakfast but I had no outside (edible) food coming to me for either lunch or dinner, the selections were the following: a hamburger for lunch (completely inedible, so unappetizing I had to cover it up on the dish) and a chicken breast dry enough to be a scouring sponge for dinner (75% inedible—I had to eat something). Not good.
I was weighed this morning, and I’m teetering on the edge of a New Frontier: 149 pounds. Not good. (Actually, in truth, this is neither good nor bad, since that’s only 29 pounds total so far. It just shocked me.)
Then, this afternoon, I had an eensy bit of spotting; however, on a floor where bedbound pregnant girls routinely have gushing bleeds, it didn’t even raise an eyebrow from the nurses. Still, not good.
And it is clear now that I will be staying until the birth. My doctor is back in town and came to talk early this morning. Though she clearly does not want to keep me, she can’t let me go back to Park Slope; she, like everyone else, painted a nightmare scenario of the next bleed being the big one, of trying to get to the hospital, losing a lot of blood, and having something terrible happen to the baby. She said I could move to a private room on a different floor ($400/night), or find a place to stay in the neighborhood, but I could not go home. Andrew and I are half-heartedly discussing the second option, but much as I would like to not be in a hospital, I also don’t want to suddenly move Lucia to an unfamiliar place where her entire world will be turned upside down. The nurse who talked to me afterward was also pretty adamant that the best place for me to be was right here. All of it: not surprising, but not good.
I’ll be 35 weeks on Thursday, which is a good threshold to get past. But there are still two weeks after that to get through. Not good. But in a way it will be good to get through them, because then the baby will be born at full term (more or less; 37 is the magic number with complete previa). Surrounded as I am by marginal previas and complete previas and high-risk twins and low amniotic fluid sacs and exclusive talk of c-sections, on a floor where women basically sit and wait for something bad to happen, it is easy to forget that pregnancy isn’t supposed to be this way—and wasn’t, my first time around. Not good. Not good at all.
I’ll end on a bright(ish) note of It Could Be Worse: I could be stuck in a hospital in an unfamiliar city for a month, as my current roommate was when her previa was discovered in a sudden, horrendous bleed while she was on vacation. Or, as the nurse told me today, I could have been in the hospital two years ago, when, because of swine flu, NY State prohibited all visitors under twelve years old—so there were high-risk pregnant women who didn’t see their other children for weeks or months. The nurse said they tried to bring the women to the lobby for ten-minute visits, but even this wasn’t always possible.
Not good. But at least those are two things I can leave off the roster of my own depressing day.
This morning, at 6:00, I was woken from a sound sleep with this greeting: “Good morning! I need to draw your blood.” Lovely. I asked her to draw it from my hand; she agreed, and stabbed me painfully, but then said she was sorry but she had to stop because the vein “blew up” and she didn’t get enough blood. So then I had to have it in my arm. And my hand, six hours later, is still sore. A pretty much fantastic way to start this Sunday. The sky wasn’t even light yet.
It’s been a week, and I’m tired of being here. I feel like being here is pointless. Nothing has happened since Sunday, my non-stress tests all come out fine, and other than some uterus “irritability,” which I’m assured is normal, I’ve been as fine as I would have been had I never bothered to come in last week at all. Meanwhile, my new roommate with marginal previa has been bleeding constantly for the past twelve hours, and timing regular contractions—she should definitely be here. Me, I’m not so sure.
But every time I ask a doctor whether it’s really necessary, they all paint the same picture: at this stage, even though I’ve only had spotting and not big bleeds, the next time I bleed I could wake up in a pool of blood and have to be rushed to a hospital, losing massive blood along the way, etc. It’s gruesome and terrifying. It seems unlikely that my doctor—whom I’ll see tomorrow and who has the final say—will have a differing opinion from the two doctors in her practice whom I’ve been seeing all week, but who knows.
In the meantime: the hospital. The day starts around 5:30, when I’m woken up for the day’s first check of vitals. Around 6:00, a doctor comes by to give me an update. At 7:30 or so, the breakfast tray arrives. Somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, I go for my non-stress test. At noon comes the lunch tray. Scattered throughout these hours are more vitals-checks and occasional monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat. At 5:00, the dinner tray arrives. Somehow, the day goes. I think today might be broken up by an exciting removal and replacement of my IV heplock thing. Lovely.
Each day I put in my contacts and get dressed in my own clothes; I sleep in my own pjs. Being in a hospital gown just makes me feel awful. I’ve been allowed to regularly shower (regularly, as in every two days or so), and I try to put on some makeup. I read the NY Times every day that someone manages to bring it to me. I’m trying to maintain some sense of normal days. Of course, they’re not normal at all, though yesterday Lucia did write all over my pants with marker and get grape jelly on my shirt during her visit, so there are moments that feel wonderfully familiar. I really can’t wait to go home.
Yesterday, Mom and Lucia found themselves entangled in a grand, frantic adventure. In the morning, they went to a music class, and when it was time to leave, Mom realized that Lucia’s beloved plush Elmo was gone. Since Bibi isn’t permitted to leave the house, Lucia’s regular traveling companions are Elmo and her pink corduroy Cat; “Cat Elmo,” she says whenever we’re preparing to go anywhere, and she hurries to find them. “Cat Elmo.” She goes nowhere without them. And now Elmo was gone, naptime was approaching, and disaster loomed.
On the advice of someone in the class, Mom checked out a toystore on 7th Avenue; they did not have the right size Elmo. After she called me to report on the loss, I called all the other Park Slope toystores and finally found one that claimed to have Elmos in all sizes—of course, this was a store about fifteen blocks away. I told Mom to go back home, put the stroller inside, wait on the stoop, and then get into the car I was going to call for her. In the background I could hear Lucia: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo” and Mom saying reassuringly, “We’re going to get into a car to go get Elmo.”
The car arrived and took Mom and Lucia to the toystore, where an exact replica of the missing Elmo was found. She called when she was outside, I called for a car to pick her up, and later Mom reported that Lucia couldn’t have been any happier with “New Elmo,” kissing and snuggling him. Crisis averted. Naptime successful. Total cost of six-inch-tall New Elmo: about $25. Worth every penny.
Insanities like this—the genuine panic and distress (on Grandma and Mama’s parts) arising from the loss of a Sesame Street doll, and the feeling of to-the-ends-of-the-earth determination to find another one—are among the things no one warned me about before I became a parent. Had someone told me that I would once launch an Elmo search from a hospital bed—and that I’d feel my blood pressure rise at the idea of my child being without this toy for any length of time—I’d have said they were nuts. I’d have said she could surely have another toy, or get over that toy, or wait for a new toy to arrive from Amazon in a few days. Little did I know that’s not the way it works in Toddlerland.
Side note: As soon as Mom told me Elmo was lost, I posted a notice to the amazing neighborhood listserv, Park Slope Parents, that’s like a giant bulletin board for 5,000 local parents. I got one phone call from a man who said an Elmo had been found at the Food Co-op; an email from a mom saying I could come over to look at her son’s Elmo and have it if it was the same kind; and a couple of emails from a woman who’d also been blindsided by a crazy Elmo search and who just wanted to commiserate. A true secret society, this parenting thing. You’re either in it or you’re not. If I were on the outside of it all I’d have nothing but rolled eyes in response, full of smug self-assurances that this would never be me.
So I think this new little one might just be the athletic daughter Andrew is hoping for. Each morning when I go for my non-stress test, whichever nurse is watching the heartbeat has just one comment: Your baby is so active! Yesterday, each time she moved (which was pretty much all the time), her heartbeat went up to 200; she was described as getting “overexcited.” Today wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it was still high, into the 180s. They’ve been keeping me on the monitors a few extra minutes to make sure the baby gets back to a normal baseline (around 150-160), which she always does. I really imagine this baby coming into the world with bright, curious eyes and kicking, excited feet, ready to squirm out of my arms and start exploring.
She just has to quiet down a bit for the weekend. Andrew left today for Florida for Katherine’s wedding, and having the baby while he’s away seems like a pretty ridiculous prospect. So for the next two days, my goal is modest: keep calm, stay still, drink gallons of water, and don’t give my placenta any reason to rile.
Here are the happier things I’m reminding myself of now that I’m facing a three-week hospital stay.
First, we’re lucky to have health insurance; one thing I’m not worrying about right now is how we’ll pay for everything. I can’t imagine coming here, tests flying right and left, and dreading the bills to come.
Second, we’re lucky I’m already 34 weeks along; the baby is doing well and though extra cooking time will be best, she will be okay if she decides she’s had enough of the womb.
And third, we’re lucky Mom could come to stay with us and take care of Lucia. No amount of motherly pride wants Lucia to be miserable in my absence, and “Gra’s” appearance yesterday thrilled Lucia. A nurse told me she’s heard suddenly hospital-bound women trying to hire nannies over the phone, so we’re lucky that Lucia is in such good hands.
All of this is good and bright. But it’s still hard to be here, not because it’s boring and tedious—it is, but I have lots of things to do—but because it is just completely awful to be away from Lucia. Of course, it’s hard to be away from Andrew, too, but Andrew understands why I’m here, knows it’s not about him, knows I love him and haven’t abandoned him, and realizes I’ll be home once it’s all over. My stay here is hard on him, but it’s not psychologically damaging.
Lucia, on the other hand, must certainly wonder why Mama is suddenly just gone. She’s been handling everything very well, having fun with Daddy and Grandma, and I’m the only one crying when she leaves after coming for a visit; but still it’s awful to see her for only an hour or so a day when for the past two years I’ve been apart from her for no more than a couple of hours a week. I worry that my sudden absence is going to damage her sense of stability, security, and trust, as though everything she loves and depends on could be gone at any second.
So far, she shows no signs of being distraught. She happily chats with me on the phone and cuddles when she’s here, and when I call home to check in I can hear her babbling and playing in the background. But still. I will be so glad to get home and get back to normal. I’d give anything right now to be in a battle of wills over getting her to eat just one more bite of dinner.
That’s right: This is my fifth day in the hospital. This week has been more than a little surreal. After our lovely pumpkin-picking day on Sunday, and a relaxing, normal evening, I found myself talking to Andrew on the couch one minute and frantically calling my doctor the next. By 10:00pm, I was at the hospital; later that night, I was admitted. And it looks like I am here to stay until the baby is born, which will be on October 27—37 weeks—as scheduled, or the minute I have any other bleeding, which could be anytime.
Though we had high hopes that our planned ultrasound on Monday would show a miraculous migration of the placenta, this was not the case. I still had the ultrasound on Monday, but I was wheeled down in a wheelchair, wearing a hospital gown; and the scan still showed complete placenta previa. Sunday and Monday nights, I got steroid shots to bulk up the baby’s lung development in case she was born sooner rather than later.
But since Sunday, I’ve been fine—no contractions, no bleeding, normal movement and heart rate for the baby. I have an IV but am no longer hooked up to any fluids or anything. What’s working against the decision to discharge me are two things: one, the insanely scary idea that the next time I bleed I might have to be rushed immediately to the OR (my condition was described as a “ticking bomb”); and, two, the fact that I live in Park Slope and would be 40+ minutes away from the OR here. It seems crazy and improbable that I could wind up in such an emergency situation, but the high-risk doctors handling my case here don’t think it’s crazy or improbable at all, and I suppose they know a tiny bit more than I do.
I hadn’t counted on a complicated pregnancy when I chose to deliver at this hospital, and though I’m happy with my choice since I do have complications, and really love my doctor and the doctors in her group, it might have been easier just to choose a Brooklyn hospital. Then again, if the baby is born early and has to be in the NICU, then this is where I’d rather be. In any case, these thoughts are pointless.
And so here I am, for three more days or three more weeks, resting and trying to give the baby as many days of cooking as I possibly can.
With fall suddenly in the air, Sunday morning Andrew, Lucia, and I set out for some good autumnal fun—pumpkin patch, livestock, apple festival—at a farm in…Long Island. It wasn’t exactly a rural setting, but really, with a toddler, this was all the farm we needed. Lucia seemed at home as soon as we arrived, rushing up to each animal pen to greet the animals, often in their own language: “Hi, geese! Honk honk!” “Hi, chickens! Bock bock bock!”
When we reached the pick-your-own pumpkin patch (a bit of a misnomer, since the pumpkins had already been freed from their vines and were waiting, artfully arranged in the field, for camera-wielding parents like us), Lucia was beyond excited. She immediately selected a tiny gourd-pumpkin and then rushed around, climbing over pumpkins, sitting on pumpkins, attempting to pick up large pumpkins, smiling happily when she succeeded in lifting smaller pumpkins.
Nearby, some medium-sized pumpkins were strewn around a grassy field, and for a while we were the only ones there. Lucia was running, toppling, falling over the pumpkins, laughing the whole time. A baby amidst pumpkins—hard to get cuter than that.
We rounded out our farm visit by buying some apples, and then we headed on our way—onward into other parts of Long Island. Our goal was to see two towns that might become potential house-hunting spots next year. First, we drove around Port Washington and had lunch at a diner—a successful lunch, even though Lucia was tired, because we sat in a booth, I’d packed plenty of raisins, and the waitress gave Lucia a lidded cup with a straw (she loves straws). When Lucia began trying to climb into the next booth, we called lunch complete. Lucia fell asleep as soon as we started the car, which was great—we were able to drive to Sea Cliff and see some nice streets without worrying about toddler car sickness. Though there was an alarming number of country clubs around Sea Cliff, there were also some beautiful houses. Lots of research to do in the months ahead.
Lucia slept nearly the whole way home, waking in a good mood and waving me off cheerily—“Bye, Mama!”—when I went out for a prenatal massage later in the day. When I got home, she and Andrew were sitting at the table, reading books while Lucia devoured a bowl of pork, kale, bean, and potato soup. She then devoured a large quantity of apple, cheese, and toast. (Her growth spurt seems to be continuing—she’s firmly a 2T now.) A lovely fall day all around.
Note: I composed this blog post Sunday evening. An hour or so later, I began bleeding and went to the hospital, where I remain today. A lovely series of hospital posts to come.
This blog began in 2006, when I quit my job and sold all my furniture to move to Barcelona with Andrew, skipping town blissfully and dramatically; then we skipped town again, to California, and then, finally, back to Brooklyn. Now I'm in a rambling old house in the suburbs, with two babies and a husband and the suspicion that we won’t be skipping town again anytime soon—at least not the kind of skipping town that involves packing boxes and moving trucks.