Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It Couldn't Happen in a Better Place

One of the last times I posted, I was complaining about how much longer I still had to be pregnant. But as fate would have it, I really didn't have much longer at all.

At 35 weeks, 6 days, it was a Friday, about six weeks ago. I had my normal weekly appointment with my doctor, only this time, I'd be seeing her partner, because she was going to be on vacation. No big deal though, right? I still had at least a couple more weeks before we could consider this baby cooked enough. And I had - barring the pernicious morning sickness of the first trimester - a pretty uneventful pregnancy. There was really no reason to think this wouldn't be a fairly routine visit. Sure, I had been feeling more tired that week, and headachey, and lightheaded a couple of times, but I was nine months pregnant. I figured that was probably what nine months pregnant felt like.

I was apparently wrong.

I was checked into the high-risk area of the maternity ward. My blood pressure - which had been in the 120s or lower over 65 or lower my entire pregnancy - suddenly registered as 139 over 89. The doctor was concerned. After my exam, she had it checked again - 136 over 89. At that point, she looked at me and said, "I don't think I like this. I'd like to admit you over the weekend for tests and observation."

Even then, I didn't get that excited about things. It was a blip, I was sure, and by Sunday morning I'd be home, annoying my husband who would likely want me to stay in bed. This, I thought, was no big deal.

I was apparently wrong. Again.

Friday night, sitting in the hospital room, my blood pressure steadily climbed as nurses checked it every hour. It hovered around 145 over 89 much of the time, spiking once at 178 over 95. Early Saturday morning, it hit 195 over 118. A few hours later, I admitted that my head hurt, I felt a little dizzy, and my face felt, well, furry. My nurse gave me a long, hard look, and then left the room. My dinner plate came, complete with the most beautiful piece of carrot cake I've ever seen. As I began eating my vegetables and main course, the nurse came in.

"Put. The. Fork. DOWN," she said. "No more food for you. No more drink."

No carrot cake. Word of advice: If you ever find yourself in a hospital for observation, always eat dessert first.

A few minutes later, she came in and announced that I would be having this baby at midnight. Soon after, I was wheeled down to labor and delivery, where nurses began prepping me for a C-section. By midnight, I was in an operating room, and by 12:21 a.m. on Sunday, March 20, John Randolph Erickson came screaming into the world, weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces, at 20 inches tall.

Yes, although he was born at 36 weeks and one day (barely), he was well over seven pounds. And healthy. He roomed with me the entire time we were at the hospital, only spending an hour here or there in the nursery - which was an immense relief for us, knowing that 36 weeks is a month early.

We gave birth at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, and really experienced the entire run of maternity and labor and delivery. What struck me as unusual (I've been in other hospitals with friends having babies) is that the nurses really took the time to explain and reassure. It was a stressful situation, and one I was wholly unprepared for, but nobody made me feel silly or tiresome for asking the millions of questions I asked. By the time we got to labor and delivery, for instance, I was terrified. This whole thing had gone from an annoying little blip that might mean bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy to something else entirely. Would the baby be OK at 36 weeks? Was there any way we could wait just 24 more hours and use steroids to help give his lungs a chance to mature? Would he spend time in the NICU? My nurse - Christie - took the time to explain all of that, and more. And when John arrived and everyone was either taking care of him or putting me back together, and I was alone behind that massive surgical drape, it was Christie who came to me to let me know John's lungs were fine, and that as long as his minor grunting problem eased, he'd be rooming with me.

And then, when we learned that John's troubles with breastfeeding were common with 36-week-old babies, the calvary came to the rescue. Three different lactation consultants spent hours helping us figure out how to help John latch better. When it became clear he was losing weight quicker and needed a little more help, they - along with his pediatrician and the nurses in the nursery - helped us come up with a plan to help him along until my milk supply came in.

And now, six weeks later, I look at my son, and am very thankful we had such awesome support around us at all times during what was a very scary time. I healed quickly, and he began gaining weight, too - in fact, at his month check up, he weighed 9.14 pounds, and was 21 3/4 inches long.

He's also the cutest baby ever. But I might be biased.

Bethany Erickson is the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson and the very proud mom of one.

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