Continued from The Story of Kellen, Part I
After getting me calmed down, the doctor left the room to call the hospital while I got dressed and called Kyle. As soon as I heard his voice, another sob escaped. He was standing with a group of colleagues and they said he instantly paled. I don’t think it’s the excuse that I gave him, but truth is, I was afraid to walk into the hospital by myself. We agreed to meet at the clinic and walk over together. As I waited for him to arrive, I made phone calls to work, my parents and my brothers.
We walked into labor and delivery together and the nurse was standing at the station waiting for me to arrive. She tilted her head a little and said, “Are you Tatum? I guess I thought you’d be in a wheelchair, or something”. Being my first labor, I didn’t realize that most women at 8 cm dilated weren’t walking around and having casual conversations. The nurse speculated that I must not be having contractions but learned differently when she hooked up the contraction monitor. She’d watch the ink printing on the paper and look at me and say, “You didn’t feel that?”
Nope, I didn’t feel one single contraction. I know many of you are seething right now, but don’t worry, the stories not over. I’d trade feeling contractions for the fear we went through, any day.
Because I hadn’t had a b-strep test yet, the doctors didn’t want me to deliver until I had the precautionary penicillin. We decided that even though I wasn’t in pain, the epidural was the best way to try to slow down my labor. Plus, while I completely respect the route to go with a natural delivery, I was TERRIFIED of labor and am a self-proclaimed wimp so had always planned on an epidural.
Once the penicillin was through my system, the slowing of the labor was starting to backfire – nothing was happening, so I was given Pitocin. Not long after getting it, my blood pressure started to drop and Kellen’s heart rate slowed. I was put on oxygen in support of the baby and given some medicine.
Things stabilized pretty quickly and I realized it was after midnight. The oxygen mask had given me a flashback to the year before when my grandfather had been taken off life support and I flew to Florida to say goodbye. “What’s the date?” I asked. When Kyle replied, “January 23” I was bittersweet. It was the one year anniversary to my grandfather’s passing. The date that made me hurt, is the day my first son would be born. I felt my Grandpa Gene in my heart that night; it helped me stay calm when a couple of hours later the oxygen mask returned just after the doctor broke my water. My blood pressure was okay, but Kellen’s heart rate was low again. Pushing began very shortly after the water broke and I could feel the sense of urgency from the medical team pick up. Between pushes, the nurse would call out Kellen’s heart rate. I remember three of them and they kept getting lower 80, 70, 40.
After having Owen, I know just how bad those numbers are, I’m so glad I was naive at the time.
From the moment I started pushing, the doctor felt we were just one or two pushes away, but Kellen wasn’t moving. He tried suctioning and that didn’t work. “Okay, let’s give her one more good push,” he said. I remember summing all of mine and my grandpas strength and pushing as hard as I possibly could. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.
The doctor signaled with his hands that that was it, we were going to the c-section. I put my head on the pillow and felt like I failed my baby. He needed to be out where they could help him and I couldn’t get him out. I stared at Kyle communicating my shame and fear through my eyes but our silent conversation was interrupted as the room suddenly swarmed with people. I signed the release as they ran me to the operating room. It was so cold in that white room, I couldn’t stop shivering. They kept piling more and more heated blankets on me. After the incision was made a nurse allowed Kyle in and just eight minutes after the doctor called the c-section in the laboring room, Kyle said, “He’s out! He’s out, Tatum! He’s so cute! He looks like you!”
And then it was silent.
“Why isn’t he crying,” I asked, timidly?
I was answered with more silence.
“Why isn’t he crying?” I demanded forcefully.
Kyle’s voice was full of fear as he tried to sound confident, “they’re…they’re working on him”.
More silence……and then,finally, a cry.
I was able to see him for a second before they whisked Kellen back to the nursery. Most of the full room had been there to support Kellen, so a crowded operating room quickly emptied. I lay there as the OB sewed me up and the anesthesiologist wiped the tears from my eyes. Seeming to forget I was in the room, the OB said to someone I couldn’t see, “wow, that went from ‘this is going to be easy’ to ‘oh shit’ in a hurry.”
I wish I would have said, “Hey asshole, I’m right here – you know, the person whose abdomen that you’re sewing shut?” Instead, I just lay there wondering what was going on with my baby.
Fortunately, Kellen was doing remarkably well. He required nasal cannulas for an hour as he settled out from the fetal distress, but he quickly stabilized and never looked back.
After two hours of sitting in post-op, I was finally able to be wheeled in to see my boy. He was crying as a few nurses were attending him. Whenever Kellen sees the picture of the two of us meeting, he says, “why was I crying? He loves hearing my answer as much as I love telling him, “you were crying until they put you in Mommy’s arms and I touched your head and said, ‘hi, it’s mom’ and you instantly stopped crying”.
We never did find out why Kellen was born early or went into fetal distress. The doctor said the placenta looked toxic and Kellen was treated for sepsis, so it could have been infection. However, after Owen came so early, the latest speculation is that there was always a level of incompetency or weakness with my cervix which also could explain why I wasn’t feeling labor contractions. “Why” doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t change the outcome; both of my boys were born too soon.
In a baby, 34 weeks and 24 weeks are worlds apart and, in our boys, their stories cannot be compared. However, fearing for your child; watching procedures on your child; being told when you can hold your child; leaving the hospital without your child and having no control over your child’s outcomes are the experiences that join preemie parents together. The height of the hurdles may not be the same, but for all preemie parents, there are hurdles that take their toll. Kellen has had a much easier start than Owen, but he is my preemie too.
© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster