The Scariest Day

20141012_185919The scariest day of my life was October 12, 2014. That was the day my son was born.

I will preface this post by saying that everything worked out just fine, but on that day I was terrified.

Charlie is what we call our “Bashert Baby.” He was a completely unexpected, as I had been told from age 18 that pregnancy without medical assistance would be highly unlikely if not impossible, and an incredibly miraculous baby. My husband and I could not help but think he was meant to be.

Pregnancy was rocky, with intense bouts of all day long morning sickness and almost every possible pregnancy side effect there is, but we all got through it.

Like many expectant parents, we were feeling a hearty mixture of excitement, apprehension, and shock–we were going to be parents! We were going to be completely responsible for a little human life. OUR ENTIRE LIVES WERE GONNA CHANGE.

By the 7th month of pregnancy, both of my doctors, a specialist in fertility and a high risk OBGYN, informed me that the baby was going to be big. They were estimating 9 to 10 pounds, and recommending a c-section. I did not want a c-section. I wanted to have my little miracle baby the way (I felt) I was meant to: naturally. I wanted a pain-killer free, vaginal birth. I wanted to EXPERIENCE childbirth. I wasn’t afraid of the pain. I had an expectation for how everything was going to go, and I wanted to make it happen.

By the 8th month of pregnancy, both of my doctors repeated their advice to schedule a c-section. They said, although it would be possible for me to have a natural birth, they must recommend a c-section since the baby was projected to be so large. They started to give me information about the risks when having a large baby. No, I said. I wanted a natural birth. A trial of labor. Please consider a c-section, they said.

20140929_191355
Me (extremely large) at 9 months pregnant.

Three weeks before the due date, both of my doctors strongly insisted on a c-section. They could not, in good conscience, recommend vaginal birth. They listed the potential problems that could occur with a baby as large as mine was going to be. Your baby is measuring 9 pounds already, they said, you must schedule a c-section.

Okay, I said.

We scheduled the c-section for the 12th of October, exactly one week before the due date.

When the day came, my husband and I were excited. This was it. This was what we were preparing for the last nine months. We drove to the hospital, checked in, and prepared for surgery.

It was as if the baby knew it was time to be born. I had been having contractions (although I didn’t know it at the time) and by the time I was up on the operating table, the baby was in distress.

The funny thing about c-sections is, you are completely aware of everything that is happening around you. Sure, you’re numb from the waist down and they hide your lower half with a sheet so you can’t see anything down there, but your senses still work.

I heard my doctor’s tone of voice change when he said, “we have to go now, now, now.” I heard the nurse when she proclaimed, “the bp is dropping under 60, under 50…” and the doctor again when he said, “there is a lot of fluid, I’m seeing a lot of fluid here.” And I heard myself say, “what’s happening? What’s happening?”

I saw the nurses moving quickly around and my husband’s eyes wide and round as he saw what I couldn’t. I watched the clock’s hands moving so slowly.

I felt my husband’s grip on my hand tighten. I felt myself getting dizzier. I felt a pressure and then an absence when the baby was removed from inside me.

I heard the doctor yell “Where is the pediatrician?”

I saw the nurse holding my baby and his limp, purple body.

I heard the doctor call a code white.

I saw my husband’s white face and the white face of the clock.

I did not hear my baby cry.

The anesthesiologist asked me if he could leave my side to help with the baby. Go, go, I said. I saw the group of nurses in their blue scrubs and yellow smocks surrounding a small table, leaning over my baby. My husband’s head in the way.

I can’t see! Move, move, move, I yelled at my husband. I heard a weak cry from the table. The clock’s hands seemed to jump and my doctor proclaimed me closed. The pediatrician arrived and shoved paperwork into my husband’s hands. Sign this, he said. What’s happening? I said.

They wrapped the baby up and thrust him into my arms. He’s ten pounds and six ounces, they said.

I looked down at his small perfect face. His dark blue eyes blinking at me. His black hair wet and shiny. Charlie, I said.

Smile, said a nurse as she took our picture.

Another nurse came over and took Charlie out of my arms and placed him in a plastic bassinet. The pediatrician told my husband that the baby was going to the NICU. Go, go, go, I said, pushing my husband. He looked at me, looked at the baby leaving, and back at me. Go, I said.

They moved me into recovery.

I lay on my bed and listened to my monitors. I looked at the gray curtain, at the ceiling, at the wall. I couldn’t move. I was alone. I refused to look at the empty bassinet beside me.

Struggling against panic, I tried to remember all of the breathing exercises I learned when I was preparing for childbirth. I thought about the yoga meditations, the lamaze exercises, the prep courses. Nothing was working and I started to hyperventilate.

The nurse came in when my monitors beeped frantically. Calm down, she said. Breathe, she said.

I took in a deep breath, closed my eyes, and silently sang the Shema.

Pushing away everything around me, all of the sounds and smells, the cold hospital air, the tingling in my legs as feeling slowly returned, I breathed out the Shema.

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

With every rising wave of panic, I breathed out the Shema.

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

With every worry about my new born baby, I breathed out the Shema.

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

With every feeling of helplessness, I breathed out the Shema.

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

The Shema got me through that first night, while I waited for the spinal block to wear off. While I waited for updates from my husband. While I waited for the painkillers to do their jobs. While I waited for the morning to come. While I waited until I could go see my baby.

The nurses informed me that I wouldn’t be able to see Charlie until I was able to walk on my own, since he was a patient in the NICU at the children’s hospital next door, a different hospital from the one in which I was a patient.

The Shema got me up and walking only 10 hours after surgery. I said it with every step as I walked around and around the nurses station.

I said it with every breath, every pain, every feeling of fatigue, and every moment of strength.20141013_121551

12 hours after his birth, Charlie was breathing on his own. 17 hours after his birth, he was in my arms as I fed him and rocked him. I was overcome with love.

While I looked down at my newborn son breathing, heart beating, and holding my finger in his hand, I said the Shema:

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave Abraham says:

    Beautiful story!

  2. Linda says:

    Birth. The most universal experience. The most unique experience. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Mummyto1 says:

    This brought a tear to my eye! What a beautiful story x Charlie is absolutely beautiful xx

  4. Earlene Abraham says:

    Beautiful story. You write eloquently. I did not know of all the drama. We are all Thankful that Charlie is here and a part of the family.

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