The life-affirming sounds quieted. My mother stood at the foot of
the bed, blanch-faced. My husband yelled for a doctor, any doctor. “Ohmy God, I killed my baby!” I first thought. The anesthesiologist chargedin and immediately started CPR on my baby boy—Kenny. I listened tothe murmurs that his eyes had opened and he looked around but hadshallow and ragged breath. Thank God. He was alive.
Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, my friends and I dreamed the
same dream—husband, white picket fence, dog in the yard, and twopoint five children. Well, I eventually snagged a husband, installed afence (six foot privacy, not picket), adopted a dog, (two cats, too), andsince I didn’t know what I would do with half a child, I stopped at two. Ibrought one of those children to the marriage. My first pregnancy lulledme into false expectations: healthy pregnancy, easy labor and delivery,and quick recovery. I looked forward to the same experience severalmore times. Six months after we married, we remained unpregnant.
Tests revealed we would not be able to have children together. My tearsfell like a waterfall. My desire to increase the size of our family plaguedme. My husband and I discussed, sometimes heatedly, available optionsto add to our family. After much heartache and misery, I decided toundergo artificial insemination using donor sperm.
That decision took five long years. The first two attempts failed to
produce results other than pain and frustration. As the saying goes, “Thethird time is the charm.” I made every effort to do right by my baby—Iexercised, ate right and got plenty of rest.
By the third month, I looked and felt like a beached whale—
everything was swollen and sore. The baby-faced doctor claimed thatsince I had attained “advanced maternal age” I should expect thispregnancy to progress differently than my previous one nine years ago. Iknew my body, and I knew a problem when I felt it. I had problems. Bythe middle of my sixth month, the doctors had discovered my gesta-tional diabetes. I started an approved diet. The next visit, my bloodpressure climbed to dangerous limits. Pre-eclampsia, a potentially
dangerous pregnancy related illness, invaded my system. Advanced age,my foot! Pre-eclampsia afflicts women from all walks of life and has noknown cause. Bed rest is the recommended treatment. My mission:reach my thirty-seventh week of pregnancy when baby lungs are morelikely to breathe on their own.
Just before my seventh month, at thirty weeks, I became a resident
of the hospital. After a week of on-again-off-again delivery decisionsbetween doctors, my blood pressure decided for us. I knew trouble theminute it walked in the door at five in the morning that fateful Sunday.
It arrived in the form of seven medical personnel. They told me to callwhomever I needed to call because it was time to have a baby. My heartstopped. He was too little. His lungs weren’t developed. His little braincould be damaged. It was out of my hands now, and in God’s.
After a very confusing tour of the NICU—Neonatal Intensive Care
Unit—and an introduction to my son’s neonatologist—a doctor for sicknewborns—my chariot departed for the labor and delivery rooms.
Leaving the NICU and its cacophony of beeps and screams left myblood cold. I felt like a lamb going to slaughter. I spent the day hookedto IV drips and monitors. My husband brought in our TV/VCR so I couldwatch movies. Time dragged. At ten p.m., with the pain unbearable, Ibegged for mercy in the form of an epidural. Checked by the doctorsjust before midnight, I had a long labor to look forward to. Shortly aftermidnight, I felt sick to my stomach—the pain medication had worn off.
My husband left to find the anesthesiologist and returned quickly. Attwelve twenty-four a.m., I vomited and my son arrived. My mother,husband and I shared this scary moment alone. Thank God the anes-thesiologist arrived seconds after his birth.
The guilt a person can put him or herself through over acts that are
out of their control can be devastating. I look at him today and remem-ber vividly his tiny little body as the machine breathed for him, wiresand tubes like tentacles reaching from the incubator. The guilt I carriedswallowed me whole. I asked every doctor and nurse I talked to what Icould have differently to have made it to my due date. They all replied,“Nothing. It was nothing you did.” Not good enough for me, I let thatguilt and remorse hang like a cloud over my life for almost two years.
Other than two scars to correct a hernia, he carries no outward signs toindicate his turbulent first weeks of life. For all appearances, he is youraverage, curious, active kindergartner.
I took a lot for granted before his birth. But, after spending five
anxious weeks waiting for him to finish developing and gain enoughweight to come home, I realized I could no longer take anything forgranted. He is my miracle baby, in more ways than one: from his
unusual conception, to his exceptional birth, to his remarkable develop-ment. While I would never want to go through that experience again, orwish it on my worst enemy, I can look back now and see that theexperience forever changed me. I thankfully face each day and thechallenges it presents. I am thankful for all that has been given to me—primarily my family and my health. As with most parents of toddlersand teens, at times I find myself exasperated, amused, or dazed at bothmy children and their antics. But as bad as situations can get, I knowthat I will always love them, do what I can for them, and above all begrateful for them. Zoloft helps.
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