Motherhood has been the most wonderous (and frustrating) experience for me. I have learned how to look at my world with new eyes and re-discover the joys of childhood. But getting to this point was a difficult journey. Worth it, but very difficult.
It was a May morning and I did not have to go into work until much later that afternoon. For the past month I had been feeling a little...off...but no outright vomiting or body tenderness to indicate anything major had occurred. On a whim, not really thinking of positive results, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Since I had been trying for nearly two years to have a baby and had been met with a miscarriage and only disappointment, I was not going to get my hopes up this time. I urinated on the impossible stick for the appropriate amount of time, then set it aside to ferment as I finished preparing for work.
I had nearly forgotten about the test! I peeked in the bathroom to sneak up on the stick...and my knees went out on me. I landed heavily on the (thankfully closed) toilet lid and stared at the readout.
Pregnant. I was finally pregnant.
This was such an important moment to me that I cried. I had been told for seven years that I could never have children. I had envied others with children, hated them, and wistfully wished for my own. Now, finally, I was to realize my dream.
But how to tell my husband? It had to be quirky; it had to be memorable. So I kidnapped him from his place of work, took him to Ruby Tuesday, and anxiously waited for the main course to arrive. For the following to make sense, you must understand something about my husband: he loves villians. More specifically, Darth Vader, but he roots for the villian like most people root for the superhero. He has always said that he wants to rule the world (with me at his side in a slinky red dress--ha!).
So I faced him across the table and folded my arms. "You know how you're always saying you want to rule the world, and you need minions to do so?" I asked him.
He gave me an apprehensive look but nodded.
I passed the (wrapped up and sterilized) positive pregnancy test to him. "Now it begins."
I thought he was going to pass out.
To make nearly nine months go by quickly, I will now hit the highlights. Through my initial pregnancy bloodwork, it was discovered that I have an auto-immune disease called Sjogren's Syndrome (and April is Sjogren's Awareness Month, in case you did not know--see here: www.sjogrens.org/home).
How does this affect an unborn baby? The potential risks are extreme: heart defects, undeveloped lungs or other major organs, infant lupis--these are the major risks to the baby. Risks to the mother? Almost as bad: blood clots in the lungs or legs (which could lead to death), the mother's body attacking the baby as a foreign object and harming it, kidney failure, liver failure, difficulty breathing, heart problems, and more. To put it into a summary: I was now classified as a high-risk pregnancy.
I am sure my insurance company hated me by the end. Due to my high-risk status, I had to have ultrasounds every six weeks to check on the progress of the baby and the development of the baby's organs. (Due to the frequency of the visits, not knowing the baby's sex would have been next to impossible--good thing I am impatient and did not want to wait anyway!)
And I did have problems. At one point half of my amniotic fluid disappeared. It just...vanished. Thank you, wonderful Sjogren's which causes horrible dryness... So I had to massively increase my fluids intake (we are talking at least one glass of water every hour) and go back in a week to monitor the fluid. Thankfully, it went back to just about where it needed to be, and stayed that way.
Then there was a problem with the development of my (by now we knew the baby was a girl) daughter's bladder. Two weeks later, it corrected itself and she was fine.
The main issue? Shortness of breath. This problem caused numerous emergency trips to the hospital at all hours of the day or night. (The third shift crew members at the local IHOP grew to know us by name...) My doctor was mostly concerned that I had blood clots in the lungs. Several Cat-scans and MRIs later, a breathing specialist determined that my healthy, breach baby girl was comfortably resting on my lungs. Add this to my pre-existing asthma and you get a mother who literally cannot take five steps without passing out.
Third trimester came after a huge struggle. I was cautioned to rest, but with a job as a social worker, there is no such thing as 'rest', so my doctor forced me to do so with bed rest. The days crawled by. Finally, around the end of October, I began having so many problems breathing that my doctor worried about my safety in carrying the baby. Not only this, but (being a petite woman) I was very nearly running out of skin to stretch. To this day, I have stretch marks past my knees and into my arms--I was very near to running out of room. My doctor gave me two steriod shots to boost not only myself, but the baby, in preparation for an early delivery. Any week now and my doctor knew she might have to take the baby out early to keep me alive.
We went from one tense week to another. October became November. Thanksgiving slowly passed...and then the doctor took one more look at me--huge, miserable, in pain, could not breathe--and decided to do a C-section on December 10th, almost three weeks before my daughter's due date of Christmas Eve.
I was relieved. I had enjoyed having my daughter grow inside me, but after eight months of nearly constant worry about her and myself, it would be nice to finally meet the sweet little face that I had suffered for.
The morning of the C-section dawned and my daughter was determined to enter the world feet-first. Her staying breech only confirmed my doctor's decision to slice me open across the stomach. I was prepped and extremely nervous. I was wheeled into the operating room and instructed to sit on the edge of the cold metal table, my backside exposed to every person in the room. A young man probed at my spine in order to give me the epideral. The problem with this? My spine is out of alignment and so my nerves are not where they should be. This poor guy poked for fifteen minutes to find the magic nerve and had just voiced to my doctor that he was going to get his superior when all of a sudden my right knee went numb. When I told him this, he poked again and it went numb a second time. Finally, he had figured out where my nerves were!
Right before he stuck me with the epideral, my doctor said, "Okay, now as soon as we do this, swing your feet over the side of the table and scoot down."
Okay. I could do that. Piece of chocolate cake. I was injected, my spine started going numb, I swung my legs over...and flopped onto the table like a dead fish.
"Now, scoot down," a nurse said.
I started laughing. There was no way in this world I was going to be able to move my heavily pregnant self down that table now! As it was, the entire team had to pick me up and move me. HA!
The blue sheet went up to block my view, my husband was told for the fourth time to sit down, and the C-section began. I developed an epideral headache, but worse than that the ceiling dome lights were brand new! Why is that bad?
Reflective=I can see everything that the doctor is doing. Actually it was rather fascinating, in a disguisting kind of way.
Okay, if you have read up to this point, let me give you a few funny stories that are now legends in the family.
1) When the baby comes out of your body, the baby's skin is blue since the baby has not been around oxygen much yet. When the doctor showed me my daughter, I thought, "Oh Lord! I gave birth to a Smurf!"
2) The baby is also covered with this whitish stuff that is called something technical, but nicknamed "cheese". They had not cleaned off the cheese from my daughter's skin when I saw her. My doctor said, "Here is your daughter. Don't worry about her being covered in cheese--we'll clean it off." I thought, Cheese? What kind of cheese? Swiss cheese? American cheese? Chedder cheese?....What kind of cheese?
3) After I was wheeled (and drugged heavily with morphine) into the recovery room, I still could not feel my legs or feet. For some odd reason, I began to cry. My husband asked me what was wrong, and I asked "Did they cut off my feet?" (My stupid husband answered that yes, they cut off my feet, but that was okay since I did not need feet. His mother nearly killed him for that since in that drugged state I believed him.)
It was a long road, but it was worth it. My daughter is beautiful and strong...and very, very two right now. She has a name that means something ("She who has honor"), and I hope she grows to appreciate that one day. She might hate how unique her first name is, but I think that she will learn to love it. I cannot wait to see the young woman she becomes!
Honoria* Elizabeth was born by C-section December 10, 2008 at 8:30am in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was eight pounds exactly and twenty inches long. She is my entire world wrapped up in laughter, temper-tantrums, sunshine, and twirls!
*Honoria is pronounced ah-nor-E-ah