(Like many Americans, I am thinking about health care and health insurance lately. I’ve really only ever had one major run-in with health issues and the health system, and it was intensive, both literally and figuratively. I had a baby that was born at 25.5 weeks in 2008. He’s a blooming, Minecraft-and-Star-Wars-loving almost-nine-year-old now, but this experience was harrowing and involved. Since my pre-existing conditions are pregnancy and premature labor, and I am guessing I have handed the latter condition down to my boy, I thought I would retell the story. I wrote about it as it happened, and it has been shared on an old blog. Part one. Part Two.)
Happy Birthday, Part III: Thursday
“I have not read this far in the books, so I really don’t know what I am doing,” I told the nurse and doctor. After all, we had just registered for our classes at our chosen hospital, and I was mostly reading along with my progress, just about to delve into the third trimester/labor parts of the literature. But for this test, there would not even be any last-minute cramming. This would be like taking your driver’s test before you have ever sat behind the wheel of a car. Except the car is my uterus and the trickiest part is not the parallel parking but the safe arrival of an infant.
They wheeled me down the hall to a delivery room along with Pete, the doctor, the nurse, and a surgery technician, just in case. The room was very bright, as you would expect, and perhaps a bit cold. Next door, the NICU team was assembled: 4 nurses and doctors ready to receive the baby once it came out. It was a good set up. There were only three people attending me, including Pete; I knew that they were ready just next door, and though I could see them, I was isolated from the bustle and business of receiving a premature infant.
It was a little after 1:00 a.m. when they started moving me from the hospital room to the delivery room, and I think that I started pushing a little before 1:30 a.m. I could feel my contractions, so I knew when to sit up and push, but I could not entirely feel everything that was going on. I was concentrating on the actual pushing and on my breathing, which was basically just my yoga breathing (Thank you, yoga. It came in handy throughout this experience), and trying to concentrate on where to bear down so that I could focus that energy where it needed to be. Whenever I had to sit up and push, the doctor would use his fingers as a focal point for the pushing, and the nurse and Pete would hold my legs up, and I would hold onto the bottom of my thighs. The baby would move a little bit each time, and Pete could see when the head appeared. I could not see over the towels that were laid on my belly to receive him, but I had my eyes closed, concentrating in any case.
I think I pushed through four or five contractions, and the baby arrived at 1:56 a.m. The doctor put him on my belly, and I was surprised at how big he was. I have never been very good at envisioning how much a weight number would translate to in “real goods,” so when the doctor had said that he thought the baby was about 2 pounds, I was expecting something shockingly small. This was a baby–a baby boy, they told us–just very little, and very red, with a little bit of blue and purple, and as the doctor cleaned out his mouth with the little squeezy ball, he made a few crying attempts, which also surprised me, and then they handed him off to the NICU team. The doctor asked Pete if we had a name, and Pete said “Finn James McCauley,” and I had a moment of surprise, but I overcame it quickly. That would be his name.
We waited while they stabilized him, and before they took him over to NICU, they wheeled him in, inside his second womb, so that I could see him. I even got to touch him on his tiny hand, and one of his eyes was open. Pete went with the team and our new little man, and they got me ready to go back to the room.
It happened pretty fast. The nurse asked if I wanted to get ready and go right over to see him, once they had checked all my vitals and disconnected me from tubes and wires. I would be moving to a new room momentarily. I did not know what I wanted to do. I wanted them to get him all set up, I did not want to be in the way of that or perhaps see upsetting things. I wanted Pete to be with him, and then I wanted to go back over with Pete so that we would be together. The hospital room and my nurse were familiar at this point, and going over to the NICU would be unfamiliar, and I wanted to be with Pete. When he came back and said things were going well, they moved me to my new room, and Pete and I got ready to go across the way to Finn’s third womb and first home.