So, where was I? Oh, yes, we were about to deliver our 26 week old baby via c-section. 14 weeks early. That’s too early, I thought. We were just talking about that at the shower the other day, how I couldn’t even imagine. I was not ready for this.
As we were in the delivery prep room, and I had the rotating team of doctors coming in and talking to me, it was as I ascended out of my body and just was watching from above. No matter how many times they told me, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the baby was coming now. I just kept thinking it was a dream, or a really bad joke. I hadn’t even gotten my big belly yet. I had so many maternity clothes I wouldn’t get to wear! People would say things like, at least you didn’t get stretch marks or get big, or whatever. They think it is a positive spin on what you are going through. Sure, I guess. I know they are only trying to be nice. But even though I was having the baby, I was somewhat mourning the loss of my pregnancy. There are so many things that I missed out on, that I can’t relate to, and that I have no idea about, when other moms are talking about pregnancy. I never got to that part. I missed out on 14 weeks of bonding with the baby. Of talking to him from the outside, of feeling him move around on the inside.
The team kept asking if we knew if it was a boy or girl. We knew…it was a boy. Do you have a name picked out? Well, we have a list…we thought we’d have plenty of time to hash it out before this moment. I cannot speak highly enough of the teams at Prentice Women’s Hospital and Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Everyone was so kind, calm and comforting, given the situation. They are pros at this, and even though I never wanted to be in this situation, there is no place I would have rather been, given the circumstances. You want “the best” when you are in something like this, and they are “the best”.
The last team that talked to me before we went into the delivery OR was the NICU team. This is when it really started to sink in. They calmly stopped by and of course, asked if it was a boy or girl? And if we had a name? Boy… Not yet. Ok, when we take him out we will immediately remove him from the room and take him to the special NICU room right off of the OR. The NICU team of neonatalists, nurses, and respiratory therapists will all be there ready and waiting to clean,examine, and if necessary resuscitate your son. We’re going to take good care of him. Never once did they give me an indication that things wouldn’t be ok.
Once surgery started, the sheet went up and Chris held my hand. We could hear my doctor the whole time talking us through it. As they removed him, we heard him take a couple of grunts once he was out. They told me they were taking him to the NICU room. I look over toward the door, and see a nurse or doc holding him in two hands as she goes through the doors. Just his little legs and arms laid over the sides of her hands. They proceed to work on him and monitor his breathing. “He’s too little”, I said. “He’s just too little”. I didn’t know what to expect next. The OB team was busy putting me back together again. Then the door opens to the NICU room and one of the nurses yells out, “do you hear him crying”?! “No! I don’t hear it”!! …But, if you say so! ok!! That was a good sign, right? That means he is breathing, right!? A few minutes later they tell Chris to come back and bring his camera. As he walked over, the nurse near me says that it is a good sign! They don’t usually let dad go back if he isn’t stable.
Chris comes back and shows me the pic. My baby. I am finally seeing him. So many months of wondering what he will look like. So many months of wondering who he will be. He’s right here in front of me, on an iPhone. Not how I imagined this first moment, but it was my moment. He was tiny, he was red, his eyes were still fully fused shut, and he was wrapped in plastic. It was scary. This was not what I had in mind. Who was this little baby? Would he know who I was? Is this really real?
Moment’s later they wheel him out in a NICU bed as they are preparing to take him up to the 10th floor. The NICU. They bring him over to us, so we can get a good look. He has an oxygen mask on now, and they are pumping air to him. He’s still wrapped in the plastic to keep him warm, as well as he is wearing two tint stocking hats that are huge on him. We get our chance for our first family pic. I had always imagined this moment, and being all sweaty from delivery, baby sleeping on my chest, as I was smiling ear to ear. Chris smiling chummily next to me. Instead the picture is me looking all unsure of what is happening, and forcing a smile, while still being operated on. Chris was smiling behind his mask. The baby, wrapped in plastic with an oxygen mask. The teams around us are all saying how cute it was and acting as if this is a normal first family photo. After the family pic, they continue on to the NICU, and I head to recovery for a while, before we can go up and see him. Baby Boy Todd. I usually don’t share this pic, but here it is. All of the fear and confusion. It’s not perfect. But it is us.
As we sit in recovery we look at the clock, it’s almost 10pm, Sunday night. We are the only two people in our world (along with Victoria), that knew what just happened. It felt like we were on a deserted island. Chris just keeps saying that he just thought we were going to order pizza and watch a movie tonight. Nope. We became parents instead. It wasn’t the way we planned, and it wasn’t pretty. It was honestly the scariest moment of my life. In all the fear, it was hard to identify the joy. It was weird to hear people congratulate us. I was angry. I I was sad. I was relieved he was alive. That’s not how you are supposed to feel, but that’s how I felt. That night, as I lay in the darkness of my room, on the “special” maternity floor (the one with no babies in the rooms), while Chris was asleep on the pull out couch, I cried and I cried. I think I cried myself to sleep that night. So many questions, and so much confusion. I just kept asking why. When I woke, I knew it was going to be a hard road ahead with plenty of highs and lows. But, at least we had the road. Not all were so lucky. We better start walking.
We are truly grateful for all of the love and support we have received from our family and friends over the last year. Also for the amazing teams of doctors, nurses, RT’s and NP’s at both Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern Memorial, and Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago.