January 9, 2012 by themommahen

Six years ago this very moment that I am typing these words, I sat in the passenger seat of our forest green Jeep Cherokee, watching the street lights of Chicago whiz by, marveling at how empty the streets were for the second night in a row. Every bump in the road made me wince, but not for the reason I had imagined when I played this scenario out in my mind a million times before. No contractions, no dramatic water breaking, none of that. Just a two-week-late-baby sitting on my bladder combined with flu-like aches and ridiculously sore ab muscles that were already stretched to their breaking point from puking my guts out for 12 hours straight. Add to that the fact that I only had a few winks of sleep in more than 36 hours and absolutely no food in me to fuel me through one of the most physically demanding acts a woman can go through.

The perfect storm.

Recipe for disaster.

Six years ago.

Six years ago, January 8, 2006, I was admitted, discharged and readmitted to Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital, all within 24 hours. Either horrific food poisoning or a vicious stomach virus was to blame for the first admission. Insurance was to blame for the discharge, because we all know that with a scheduled induction 12 hours later, it totally makes sense for a woman at 42 weeks gestation who has just been wrecked by aforementioned food poisoning or virus to get out of bed, get dressed, drive home, and come back less than 12 hours later. No sleep, no food, hardly any liquids except for the IVs I’d been given during my first check-in. Yeah, that sounds like the perfect birth plan.

Six years ago, I was scared to death. But not of childbirth; of things like would I be a good mother, would I love him/her enough, would I still be me, would I know how to keep a human alive? Small stuff.

Six years ago, this control freak got put in her place, because for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no control. I learned a lot of lessons from that induction, but I won’t share any with first-time moms unless they really want to know. And then I still might not share. I will share this though: get a doula. At least look into it with an open mind. I didn’t.

Six years ago, The Husband was told to “grab a leg.” And he did. And just like that, we both did something we said we’d never do. He’s still scarred by that.

Six years ago, my body was worn. out. Pushing for almost three hours seemed like a lifetime, though I’ve heard of women, especially first-timers, going much longer. I was cashed. The order for forceps was given.

Six years ago, finally, my baby was born. And just like everyone said they would, all my fears melted away. I loved her immediately and unconditionally, with more force and ferocity than I’d ever felt. And that’s saying a lot because I’m an Aries.

Six years ago, something went horribly wrong. The room filled with doctors coming in from every side of the room, swarming in, gathering around My Baby, speaking in urgent tones and using words The Husband and I didn’t understand. I heard words like “chest tube” and “oxygen” and “code.” My life had turned into a Lifetime movie, with me feebly asking, “Is my baby alright? What’s wrong with my baby?” in a thin, shaky voice.

Six years ago, My Baby was taken away. The Husband and I got to see her for a millisecond as they wheeled her by. She was blue. We told her we loved her.

Six years ago we sat in that room for nearly four hours, not knowing anything about what had happened or what was happening. Not knowing if our baby girl was alive. No one could tell us anything because all the doctors were still “working on her.” We sat in disbelief, too scared to even call my parents in who were in the waiting room anxiously wondering why they were getting radio silence after a steady stream of updates.

Six years ago a doctor I had never met became one I will never forget as she breezed into my room and, after a long pause that made me want to rip her face off, told us that Our Baby was okay. The word pneumothorax was imprinted in my brain forever. Our Baby had basically blown a hole in her lung. The force of that had moved her heart and other organs. This would be written up in medical journals. She would be in the NICU for a few days at best.

Six years ago I met my Baby Girl for the first time, tubes and wires everywhere, unable to hold her or feed her, but she was okay. She gripped my finger tight with her little hand. It was more than enough.

Six years ago we found out how blessed and lucky we were. At eight pounds, eight ounces, Our Baby was the biggest baby by far in the NICU. I still think of those tiny little babies and remember the awesome nurses and doctors there. We still send a Christmas card there every year. I hope they put it up on the wall for visiting families to see that there is hope. There were lots of cards up six years ago. They gave us hope.

Six years ago…six years later…six years today. Happy Birthday sweet girl. In spite of it all, it was still one of the best days of my life.

16 thoughts on “Six

  1. Anonymous says:

    Happy Birthday to your beautiful little girl!!!! I had no idea you went through that with her . . . . the same exact thing happened to Conner at birth along with an overwhelming bloodstream infection that kept us in the NICU for 2 weeks!

  2. Larisa Spillman says:

    Wow — what a coincidence! I haven’t found anyone who experienced the same thing. That blood infection had to have been even scarier. So glad everything worked out. Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yep, and at 9 lbs he was by far the biggest baby in the NICU!

  4. Anonymous says:

    WOW, I can’t even begin to imagine how physically exhausted you must have been! Bless your heart!! Labor is hard enough on a healthy, rested woman’s body! I know the feeling of having your baby taken away to the NICU. I had two premature babies…one stayed in the NICU for two weeks and the other for 8 days! Such a sad and scary time. Thankful that your sweet girl and my sweet babies are now all happy and healthy! Happy Birthday to your little girl! 🙂

  5. Larisa Spillman says:

    Amen! She was only in for six days-I can't imagine longer. We went home and all the other sweet, tiny basis were still there with the parents taking shifts, trending to other children, jobs, etc. We realized pretty quickly just how fortunate we were.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is an amazing story from start to finish. I can’t imagine the fear, but I can see how it would galvanize the protective urges you have around your little hatchlings. They are all so lucky to have you.

    And happy birthday to YOU, dear. Sounds like it was quite a day indeed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dandridge told me to read this. Awesome. You are a great writer. keep it coming!

  8. Larisa Spillman says:

    Thanks Corinna and Michaux — yes, my Momma Hen tendencies were definitely made a little stronger that day.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This entry made my scalp tingle. So powerful. Happy birthday to a beautiful girl! (my youngest was also in the NICU with pneumothorax. Scariest moments of my life.).

  10. Larisa Spillman says:

    Thank you (belatedly, of course, as I obviously responded to you in my head and not for real)! You are the second person I have heard from after writing this post whose child had a pneumothorax after birth. So weird after thinking for so long we were the only ones. I'm assuming everything is fine now?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yep! Healthy as a horse and turning two next week! Thanks for asking. 🙂

  12. […] So we hunkered down, just the two of us (with great support from our families) and we mourned and grieved. And drank lots of wine and beer. And planned trips to Memphis and Vegas. And lo and behold, in Vegas after not feeling quite right for a few days and two negative pregnancy tests, I took a third test. And it was positive. And that was the beginning of H#1. My pregnancy was uncomplicated and uneventful. The delivery, however, was not. But it had a wonderfully happy ending. […]

  13. […] Her birth story was dramatic. Her life the way she lives it, if only in her seven years, is less so. Except in sporadic bursts. I’m sure there will be drama to come. But for now, she’s rock-steady, dependable, caring and so many more wonderful and wondrous things. An artist, a voracious reader, a cuddler, a protector, an animal lover, a pragmatist. The one who reminds me that in order to keep all these memories forever, all you have to do is use your mind like a camera. Just blink your eyes, and say click. […]

  14. […] his birth story in which I declared, after having a birth experience 180 degrees different from my first, that I could have 15 […]

  15. […] quarters. Seems like yesterday we were getting it — and everything else — ready for Hatchling #1 who, to our great joy and surprise was followed by #2 and […]

  16. […] in on the action too. It doesn’t seem fair, really, considering what the girl went through when she was born. Our fears that her spontaneous pneumothorax may somehow be to blame for this were allayed by a […]

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