Sunday was the Peanut's 4th birthday. Four years old! It's all true, what they say about it flying by.
It certainly doesn't seem so long ago that Mr. S. and I were mulling over the best timing for a second child. As a university prof, he has some flexibility to be home in the summertime, so to make the best use of that we were thinking that having a baby in May would be ideal. So we counted back 40 weeks from an ideal due date in May '04, and put "conceive child" on the calendar for early September '03. By the end of that month we were pregnant.
I know. What can I say, we're both planners by nature.
Pregnancy proceeded normally. I was lucky with morning sickness, not so lucky with heartburn and hip pain, but overall, I loved being pregnant, both times.
In mid-April, we heard that friends whose baby had been due at about the same time as ours had just given birth. They'd been prepared for a premature delivery, and everyone was doing OK. I remember reading the email of this news to Mr. S., and how he sort of freaked out -- it somehow drove home, more than my being right in front of him and as big as a mobile home, that our due date was fast approaching. So much left to do... paint the Bean's new room, get the baby stuff ready for the new arrival... tick tock, tick tock!
However, what he said was, "Whoa. You'd better start sleeping on a tarp."
I will NOT sleep on a tarp, I said, though it may have come out sounding more like "eh, bite me."
"OK, the kitchen floor then," said Mr. Nice Guy.
Very funny. Still, I decided that next laundry day, I'd go ahead and put down the extra absorbent layer under the sheets. This was a Friday night, I do laundry on Mondays -- the "tarp" could wait 3 days. With more than 5 weeks to go, there was no reason to believe we didn't have plenty of time for those measures, if not for painting rooms, and such.
You can see where this is going: My water broke at 5:30 that Monday morning.
Lying in bed with this just having happened... too soon, too soon!... I had to figure how to roust my husband into quick usefulness without scaring him shitless. He's a heavy sleeper, and doesn't do well at that hour. Also, you know when you're scared, and you hear the sound of your own voice being scared, and it makes you more scared? Well. I was pretty scared. I didn't want to hear how I'd sound.
Eventually I just said his name -- one calm but urgent syllable -- and instantly he was standing at the foot of the bed with a stack of towels. It was sort of funny, but at the time I was too freaked to say "Um... I guess you were right," and he wasn't quite ready for "Aha! I told you so."
We called the doctor, who said Don't Panic, but Get Thee To The Hospital. We called and woke my mother to come stay with the Bean. Then there was nothing to do for a while until she arrived. I took a shower and packed some stuff. The shower helped me stop shaking. I repeated a prayer for this baby coming too soon (why?!) -- ohplease ohplease, oh, please, let her be all right. I hoped her lungs were ready for prime time.
We got the Bean up and dressed and fed breakfast. Mom came, and it was time for us to go. And I kissed my smiling Bean in her high chair, and thought how we would never be the same family again -- how the next time I saw her, she wouldn't be my one and only any more. All that bittersweet stuff came in a rush. It's all good, of course you love the second child as much as the first, but before she comes, it's just hard to imagine how that's possible. The beginning of the Peanut's life signaled the end of my special, private partnership with my Bean, who at 20 months had no way to be prepared for that. Oh! Good-bye, sweet Bean!
And we were off. At Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, where Bean was born, they got me sort of settled, looked at my chart, and said well... you can't deliver here. You're not 35 weeks, you're 34 weeks and 6 days... and our cutoff is 35 weeks. To Boston with you!
Preparations were made for ambulance transport to New England Medical Center. In the meantime, the nurse tried to get an IV started. As usually happens with me, the first attempt failed. I get all woozy at stuff like this. It makes me dizzy, feel faint... lose consciousness...
...when a pregnant woman passes out in the hospital, alarms go off, and people get very upset. That little nap bought me a nurse escort in the back of the ambulance. Poor Mr. S. had to follow in our car, alone. That must've been harrowing.
Settled in a windowless room at NEMC, we had an ultrasound to evaluate how big the baby was. She looked to be about 6 pounds - good. We were asked if we were sure our dates were right. Without explaining how precisely we'd planned things -- it seemed somehow irrelevant -- I just said yep, we're sure. Since my water had broken, there was danger of infection; with a good sized baby and no reason to try to keep her in, the verdict was to get her born ASAP. So, by midafternoon Monday, we started Pitocin (labor-inducing drug).
Anyone who's been down that road knows how much it sucks. I'd had it with the Bean, too. I don't know how to describe it. I believe labor is pretty damn difficult when it happens on its own schedule, but to force it... well. It's kind of brutal. By midnight or so I was breathing through pain and watching the contractions on the monitor. That would be kind of cool, like watching a seismograph during an earthquake, except that it goddamn hurts. Epidural time!
The anesthesiologist was a young woman who had the gall to complain about the width of my bra band. Why it was in her way, I have no idea; the epidural goes in the lower spine. I wanted to slap the bitch silly: I am EIGHT (slap) MONTHS (slap) PREGNANT (slap) and my BOOBS (slap) ARE (slap) HUGE (slap)!!!!. What the FUCK (slap) am I supposed to wear? What would be more (slap) convenient for (slap) you? But of course you can't say these things to the person who is about to poke a good-sized needle into your spine. You're verrrry nice to that person. Docile, even.
I do wish I had her name to send her a nice thank-you note for not paralyzing me despite being offended by the sight of my industrial strength undergarment.
In any event: numbness. Which was nice, considering the alternative, but also weird and horrid in its own way. I hated, hated, touching my legs and not feeling them being touched. Freaked me right out.
More and more contractions, dilation, blah blah blah. It goes on for hours, and eventually it's the next morning, and time to push her out. They have to back off the epidural for the pushing part, so you end up hurting no matter what. Labor is no walk in the park. But y'all know that.
NEMC is a teaching hospital, so when things got interesting, a student came in to observe. A tall, blonde, handsome student. He asked if he could stay and watch. I said okey dokey... but you're gonna have to help. Help? he said, unsure.
Heh. When it came time to push, I had my handsome blond husband holding back one leg, and the handsome blond med student holding back the other. The nurses were great, all the encouragement in the world. The neonatal docs set up a station to get my little girl all the breathing help she needed as soon as she needed it. We had a full and busy room, I remember that. Pushing was hard work(!), but everything went reasonably quickly.
My daughter made her appearance at 11:45 Tuesday morning. I was able to hold her briefly before she needed a breathing tube and was taken off to the NICU, but she'd be fine, fine. At over 6 lbs., she was a giant by preemie standards, even though she was a peanut by ours. She pulled out her own tube over night and they didn't bother to put another one in.
The med student was wiping away tears. It was the first birth he'd ever seen. I saw him in the hallway the next day, and he kept saying "you were amazing. Amazing. Thank you, thank you. Can I get you anything?" Funny. I asked him what he thought he might go into... dermatology, maybe? Emergency medicine, he said. I think he'll be a fine doctor. It's kind of nice to know he'll never forget the Peanut's birthday.
Mr. S. brought the Bean to visit, and she seemed so BIG! and full of love. I'd missed her!
Peanut did very well, and was transferred to Jordan for a few days. The baby next to her in the nursery turned out to be our friends' daughter whose birth announcement had prompted Mr. S. to make his smartass tarp suggestion less than a week earlier.
We brought Peanut home on the 28th, my own birthday.
Her early arrival has had not a single ill effect. Four years later, I can still glimpse in her face the adorable baby and toddler she was, but more and more I see the graceful, funny, incredibly happy little girl she's becoming.
I'm so proud of her. Happy Birthday, Peanut!