About a month ago, I downloaded Half Baked: the Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe onto my Kindle; it was a mere $3 and the description said it was about a woman coping with a preemie in the NICU after a difficult pregnancy. I am a preparedness type, and while I am obviously hoping to skip the NICU, it would be less than realistic of me to deny that there is a distinct possibility of my having a baby prior to 36 weeks, and I thought it might be good to read a real-life experience.
The summary did not really reveal the entire story, which is the author, pregnant with twins, finds out around 20 weeks that one of the twins has died in utero. Several weeks later, she goes into preterm labor likely as a result of this, spend 3 weeks on hospital bedrest trying to stop labor until giving birth to her son (deceased) and her daughter at just over 25 weeks gestation. So this woman’s story is more or less two stories – one which parallels my own in eerie fashion, and a second which is probably very much like what my story would have been had we been able to stave off labor for an extra week.
I’m not sure I would have chosen to read this, at this point in time, had I realized, but once I started, I felt compelled to finish. That the author describes herself as basically, well, ME, does not help with the creepy similarities, and reading this before bed led to dreams all night of Amy as a micropreemie in the NICU.
So I’m reading along this morning, and there is a paragraph that struck me particularly, although the entire book is filled with sentences I’ve underlined because I could have written them, but this it was that anyone who has ever had a child die or come close can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they realized this. That I can tell you this has never struck me as particularly odd since, unlike the Kennedy assassination, what you were doing the moment before you realize your 23 week old fetus is not going to make it is typically, you know, hanging out in a hospital, trying not to have a baby. Any additional clarity gained seem more than likely a product of not being on magnesium for the first time in days.
But actually, she’s right. I remember every moment, every gesture, every word, when I realized Amy would die. It had certainly crossed our minds previously as a possibility, I mean, any time the sound of the “baby is born” chime or a new baby crying down the halls makes you roll your eyes and hate the person holding that baby, it’s pretty safe to assume death is on the table. But so was life. No one knew, not even the doctors, so we hoped, but we were aware.
But in the wee hours of the morning, our room still pitch black except for the glow of the uterine contraction monitor that we’d both taken to staring at entreatingly, practically praying to it, really, I knew four things:
1. I was 23 weeks and 5 days gestation.
2. We had signed a DNR for our daughter if she was born before 24 weeks gestation.
3. The neonatalogist told us there was virtually a 0% chance of a baby younger than 24 weeks gestation, or really even 26 weeks, surviving without resuscitation.
And, 4. I was in labor, and nothing could be done any longer to stop it.
Which meant, our baby was going to die. But I didn’t want to give up hope prematurely, so I remember very clearly that I was lying on my left side, and Dan was sitting in a chair right across from me, holding my hand, and I asked him, in the very softest of voices so as not to tempt fate, “Is our baby going to die?”
And I remember very clearly that he squeezed my hand, and that he was crying too, and he nodded and said that she was. And then he said that we’d done everything we could. That I’d done such a good job. That we would be okay.
And then I started crying and I don’t think I stopped until after she was born, 45 minutes later. I can’t imagine not remembering this moment, so here it is, forever.