Saturday, February 20, 2016

Forty-five Hours

Grandma Ruth's blanket waiting for baby Chase.

Dave described the waiting room in the maternity ward at UCSF as “crowded.” Outside a short partition with a shrub on one side and an open corridor on the other had offered him some privacy as he leaned against a connecting wall and fell asleep.
He tells me now my foul mood chased him out of the delivery room. I’m sure I complained plenty about my uncomfortable position and my lack of laborious progress due to the steroid medicine coursing through my veins. I remember distinctly he uttered these words. “It can’t be that bad.”
I forgive myself now for whatever unpleasant outburst I snapped back at him in reply. Nurses—I’m certain they overheard me—tsk-tsked my behavior but kept their forced smiles as they went about their business of keeping me in check. I didn’t care. This was about mid-point in my forty-five-hour birthing process. I felt sorry for myself and I was tired.
Tired of hearing, “Your cervix is not dilated enough yet Mrs. Toboni.”
I had been a handful. “Could you find my husband? Can you help me roll over? How much longer? I need the bathroom again.” I looked forward to this last activity, hoping my child would drop into the toilet. Of course then I’d rescue him. Or would I? All kidding aside, I was scared. I kept trying to comfort myself with the reassuring words from my doctor, back in Napa—the one who couldn’t be here because he was on vacation. Women have been delivering babies since the beginning of time. You have nothing to worry about.
I had plenty to worry about. Did those women have preemies? How small is too small before there are problems? What if I smother my baby while I’m rolling around?
“Please try to stay calm, Mrs. Toboni.” I heard over and over again. At this point I am feeling achy, and there are twinges, but little else.
“Don’t push,” the doctor ordered. I wanted to push. I was anxious to practice my new breathing technique that I had learned in my first prenatal class. There had been no time for a second class. You’re too early baby!
The sonogram had confirmed our baby was a boy. Dave and I had agreed on the name, Chase. As I counted the minutes and hours, I watched the baby monitor. Chase Martin Toboni, I silently told him, I love you. You’re going to be perfect.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Beautiful Baby

Chase's plaque

Every mother likes to say her baby is beautiful, but I had proof. Johnson & Johnson awarded Chase an Honorable Mention in their Beautiful Baby Contest. I had hoped for first place and a college scholarship, but was glad to accept the plaque. His first couple years, I was only aware that my child was a beautiful baby destined to have a bright future. I couldn’t see that he was autistic, not yet anyway.
Before Chase was born I went to sleep as usual but woke up a few hours later in labor. How could this be happening? Our baby wasn’t due yet. I had just quit my job at the local newspaper, and I thought the timing would be perfect. I’d have six weeks to prepare, but Chase had his own timeline. 
David drove me to our local hospital and after checking in a nurse placed her stethoscope on my belly. Surprised, she looked at me and said, “You’re having twins.” She had found two pulses. She ordered a sonogram. Pre-term twins? What did that even mean?
Dave was half asleep in the hallway. “Guess what?” I called as I rolled by in my wheelchair. “We’re having twins. Come with us to the sonogram.”
It took a minute for the shock to stop constricting his vocal chords. “Twins?”
            “Yes, twins. You look pale.” He looked as bad as I felt.
After the sonogram the doctor—not my doctor, he was unaware of Chase’s timing and was off on vacation somewhere—confirmed what the nurse had told us. “Yes, there are two pulses, but only one is a heartbeat. The other is an ankle beat.” He assured me my baby was a good size for a preemie, about four pounds. “His best chance for a normal birth is at UCSF Medical center. We’ll send you there by ambulance.”
Ambulance? I’d never been inside one, but this wasn’t some great adventure. This was an emergency—sirens, paramedics, and the frightened mess that was me. And this new term for babies, preemies? How could there be this whole other species of babies that I’d never heard of before? 
“But I’m in labor now. Isn’t the baby going to come out now?”
The doctor explained that the labor could be slowed by injecting me with a steroid type drug allowing the baby’s lungs to develop. Even one more day of keeping the baby in my womb could make a difference.
My anxiety grew on the way to the hospital. This was partly because Dave couldn’t ride with me in the ambulance—he followed in our car—and because the intravenous drugs were working. I felt jittery. The paramedics were doing their best to keep me calm, but it was impossible to relax for the hour long ride from Napa to San Francisco.
At the hospital nurses and doctors buzzed around me as they settled me into my room. I was instructed to stay in one position, on my side, because the baby would have trouble breathing if I rolled on to my back. After a few hours my body was aching, but I dared not roll over. My water had already broken so there was nothing to stop Chase from being born but my uncomfortable position and the meds. Dave did what he could—massaging my back—but he was exhausted and after a bit he had to find a place to rest. He told me later he had found a bench outside and had fallen asleep for a few hours.
Thankfully, doctors knocked me out so I was able to get a few hours sleep before the birth. In all I labored 45 hours— 3 a.m. July 3rd to noon July 5th. Chase’s grandmother nicknamed him our Firecracker Baby. I learned very quickly that this wasn’t at all about me anymore. I prayed everything would be all right.