When this week began, we had no inkling it would end the way it did.
Let me back up a little. Obviously we knew that we had a child on the way. The c-section to welcome him into the world was scheduled for October 27th. Of course, if you read my blog about my daughter’s birth, you know that my wife is considered high risk, because we’re over 40, and she deals with gestational diabetes and hypertension.
The early part of this week was pretty standard, but Wednesday was dinner with my co-workers up in Los Angeles, around 40 miles away. My mother would be watching our daughter, as my wife had a routine obstetrical appointment after work.
Yeah…you already see where this is going, don’t you?
Dinner was fantastic. I work with an extremely engaging and talented group of people. As you might imagine, with an over-eight-months pregnant wife, I tend to monitor messages from her pretty closely. And toward the end of dinner, I started reading a text thread between my wife and my mother, which began with my mother asking when to expect my daughter to be picked up. First it was after my wife’s appointment…next it was after they ran some tests…then it was she wasn’t leaving at all, and finally I took a call with my wife and her doctor explaining the situation:
Hypertension had evolved into preeclampsia.
My co-workers were incredibly supportive, and didn’t hesitate to cut after-meal conversation short to drive me back to my car (we all drove together). My mother put our daughter to sleep in the crib she keeps for her, so I was able to visit my wife in the hospital.
The next couple of days were rather chaotic, since the doctor’s recommended course of action was dependent on monitoring and lab test results, and those kept changing. So at one point we thought there might be an emergency c-section Thursday morning, then Friday morning. For a moment, there was even talk that maybe they could release her to bed rest at home, and she’d be fine. But after 48 hours in the hospital with some preeclampsia symptoms persisting, it was official: I would need to get to the hospital by 5:30am Saturday for a 6am c-section.
Getting away wasn’t straightforward, considering I was being sole caregiver for our 20-month-old daughter. Thankfully, my wife’s closest friend (who is also our daughter’s godmother) offered to be at our house at 4:45am, so that I could leave before the crack of dawn to ensure that I was at the hospital by the crack of dawn.
The 5am drive was actually very relaxing, even though I was a buzzing cocktail of nerves and exhaustion. But when I arrived, the drill was much the same as with our first child—put on the sterile paper outer garments, sit in an empty hallway while they prep my wife for surgery, and then they let me in when they start the actual c-section. For me, the most anxiety inducing moment is sitting alone in the hallway, when there’s nothing for me to do but obsessively create horror shows in my mind. As soon as they let me in, I snapped into support mode, the operation was done quickly, my wife was a true champ as ever, and at 6:49am, our son entered the world, tiny but mighty.
Tiny, because he was born after 33 weeks and 2 days. So he was about 4.8 pounds and just over 16-inches. Not too unusual for a premie born just after eight months, but he still needed some time to cook. So they put him right in an incubator, and he and I went to the neonatal ICU (NICU) where I got to hold his hand while they poked and prodded him and hooked him up to all their hardware. They were very happy at his level of alertness—he was already opening his eyes and looking around and crying and trying to rip the wires out. He also was able to grip my finger, which was nice.
That Saturday, Darcee’s friend put in about 8 hours watching our daughter so I could be at the c-section and with my wife and son. In fact, she would offer to watch our daughter a couple of times after that as well, allowing me to visit my wife and son in the hospital and on Monday evening, to bring my wife home. All told, she spent around 14-hours caring for our daughter. Saying that we are grateful doesn’t begin to cover it.
While my wife is home, the reality is that preeclampsia can return up to six weeks after birth, so she is not only recovering from surgery but also diligently monitoring her blood pressure and looking out for other signs that her preeclampsia has rebounded, necessitating a return to the hospital.
Our son is still in NICU, but doing extremely well. He’s off of supplemental oxygen, eating, active and looking around. We have visited him every day. He has slept on my wife’s chest and she’s changed one of his diapers. The nurses say that he’s doing better than they’d expect of a “33-weeker” and that while we’d assumed he’d stay in NICU for 2-4 weeks after birth (which would have been his full term) we’ve been told that if he keeps doing as well as he is and there are no regressions, he could be home as early as this weekend.
If you would have asked me at the beginning of last week if I thought I’d end the week with a son, I would have smiled and shaken my head. But here we are, and I’m not shaking my head anymore—but I’m still smiling.