I lay in the hospital bed laughing with my husband as we watched Ferris Beuller's Day Off. It was a Friday night, so The Mister could stay late with me. I always felt more secure and relaxed when he was by my side. If I tried hard enough, I could imagine that we were just home on the couch, watching a movie and relaxing like we used to do.
When the nurse entered to strap a device to my belly so she could monitor the baby, I didn't let it interrupt. This was our norm. I lived in the hospital and the nurses came and went. They were just part of the date, as normal as the dog needing to be let out or the cat wanting her chin scratched. Routine.
In the back of my mind, I noticed that The Peanut's heart rate seemed slower than usual. I tried not to let it worry me. Worry had become my second nature in the past many weeks, but I was finally moving through it and reaching toward hope. The nurses would know what to do. The large team of specialists who saw us every day would be able to take care of us. They didn't seem panicked at all.
Soon, the maternal fetal medicine specialist was there to do an ultrasound. Again, not a real break from the routine. We got these at least once a day if not more frequently. I felt secure knowing that he was checking things out to make sure The Peanut was doing just fine. I continued to watch the movie, trying to keep my giggles to a minimum so as not to interrupt the doctor.
After at time he said, "It looks like your going to be having a baby tonight."
I smiled, "You think so?"
The now me wants to go back to the then me and wipe that smile off of her face. Who does she think she is? Doesn't she know she is only in her 27th week of pregnancy? Doesn't she know that being surrounded by all of these medical professionals and fancy equipment have engendered in her a sense of false security? Can't she see the disaster approaching from her still-miles-away view?
"Oh, I don't think so, I know so," the doctor resonded in a matter of fact way.
Excitement bubbled up inside of me. My baby boy is coming to the world! It felt right. I knew he was early, but we were in one of the best hospitals with one of the best NICU's in the state. We had been watching this little guy so closely for weeks, I just knew that, though he would struggle a bit, we would all be home soon. The Peanut was filled with a strong spirit. I knew this because each day he tumbled inside of me like an acrobat, kicking at my catheter, rolling across my belly like a mid-game soccer ball. He had what it took to make it through.
Recently, I had taken to joking to family members that once the baby was born, "The baby will be in the NICU, I will be in recovery, and The Mister will be in the nut house." In that scenario, I had never questioned that any one of us wouldn't make it out.
As they took me into surgery (they were performing a c-section which the doctors felt would be easier on the baby due to his prematurity), I felt relaxed and calm. The Mister soon joined me in the surgical suite. I smiled and laughed with him, trying to ease the stress I saw on his face. I mouthed to him the words, "Elephant Shoes", which evoked from him an, "I love you too." A game we played. He wouldn't have fallen for it in less stressful times.
Soon enough, there was a tug and some movement behind the curtain which hid my belly from view. There was no cry, just silence. I briefly saw the tiniest baby I had ever seen being whisked through the room. Craning my neck as best I could I said to The Mister, "Was that him? Was that the baby?" I couldn't believe my eyes. This little guy who had been kicking away inside of me was so very small.
Once I was sewn back together, they wheeled me into recovery. I waited, groggy, to see my new child. When I was able, they wheeled my bed through the NICU so that I could touch his warm head as he lay there in the incubator. I wanted to stay by his side, but before long, the nurses nudged me away so that they could get me back to my own recovery.
"Mommy's here. I love you." I let my had fall from his furry little head.
As the days went by, my little Peanut grew in his incubator. Family came to visit. He met people. I received frequent reports from the doctors who were there around the clock.
"He did well last night."
"He is stable."
I had faith that everything would be fine.
For 24 hours, I was required to stay in bed by my OB/GYN. The moment the doctor let me out of bed, I had The Mister load me into a wheelchair and I virtually raced to the NICU to see my baby boy. There he was, so tiny, but strong. I lay my hand on his warm little body and knew that it was going to be okay.
The next morning, one of the neo-natologist visited our room. He told us that The Peanut had a rough night. They were doing tests. I worried, but I didn't panic. I knew that the NICU was full of ups and downs. We went to visit as soon as we could.
As soon as we arrived, I knew that things had shifted. The Peanut's oxygen sats were well below normal. He had a monitor alarming. While he looked no different, it was clear that things were not good. My heart raced to the beep of his alarm. Where was the nurse? Why wasn't someone saving him? Who was looking out for my son?
When the nurse arrived, a neo-natologist arrived with her. I have blotted out everything about this woman except the color of her hair. A brown bob is the only thing I can see when I dredge my memory banks. She spoke slowly and quietly, kindly, to The Mister and I. My memory of her words is a fragmented, hiccoughing blur. She spoke of a bleed he had suffered. She began to describe the stages of severity in such bleeds. As she described them, my hope was squeezed from me like the final drops from a soaking tea bag. I cannot tell you to this day what stages 1-3 held for him. I only know that she spoke in slow motion, moving through her explanation while time stood still. I waited, my throat catching at every stage. Maybe it's stage one. Maybe not so bad. But she kept going. My baby? My baby had a stage 4 bleed. My baby was failing.
And my instincts had failed. All of that warm, bubbly hope I had held inside of my heart had been a mistake. My sense of security was only wishful thinking and I had wasted his short life believing that we would have more time together. All because the one thing I thought I had, the one thing I should have had, my motherly instincts, had failed.