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.

14 comments: said...

OOps. I started typing before I should and made a big typo in my comment. Sorry. : (

I wanted to say: this post is charming and full of warmth and humor, just like YOU.

Barbara Toboni said...

Thanks for your kind words, and taking the time to comment, Patsy. I removed your first comment.

Marilyn Campbell said...

What a scary time for, but you injected the needed humor to make it a balanced piece. A good account. 45 hours--whew!

Barbara Toboni said...

Thanks, Marilyn. Yes. I was glad when it was all over. And not all of those hours were the hardest ones. That labor came on the last day. Now that I look back on it, it's easy to find the humor. At that time nothing seemed funny!

Amber Lea Starfire said...

Wonderful post, Barb. Warm and humorous while still managing to capture the chaos of the moment. And I love that you still have the Honorable Mention certificate!

Barbara Toboni said...

Thanks, Amber. It was a chaotic time that now seems humorous to a certain extent. And the certificate, I can't part with ever. It's a mom thing.

Barbara Toboni said...

In an email from Donna:

Wow. Please write the next part soon!!

Thanks, Donna. Nice to hear from you. More coming soon.

Barbara Toboni said...

In an email from a retired nurse who wishes to remain anonymous:

I think this piece is too short. The next to last or third to last paragraph is when the tension is highest. Just saying you were in labor for 45 hrs is erasing the tension and telling not showing. What thoughts were going through your mind after 10 hrs, 20hrs, 30 hrs, 40 hrs?

Were you pissed that Dave could sleep in any position without harming Chase but you couldn't? Were you sick of seeing and being examined by many Drs and nurses?

Barbara Toboni said...

Thanks, Anonymous:

You make some good points and ask some good questions.
My process right now is in fits and starts, but it's true this piece can be expanded.

Barbara Toboni said...

In an email from Nan:

very good, keep going, I want to read more.

Reply: Will do.

Barbara Toboni said...

Comment in an email from Leonore:

Brilliant writing! Brilliant and brave. Oh how I adore you!

reply: Thank you! The adoration, back at you!

Laura McHale Holland said...

You described your experience so vividly, Barbara, that I think my pulse quickened while reading this.

Barbara Toboni said...

Thank you, Laura! It was vivid for me. Glad you stopped by. As always your words mean a lot.

Christina Julian said...

Great pice Barbara. These post about your son are very impactful. I would say a memoir or essay collection in the making.