Two days before surgery (June 30), my wife and I spent the day assembling nursery furniture, because I wasn’t sure how well I would be between the takedown and our baby’s September 30 due date. We capped the day with a nice meal together—Mexican food at one of our favorite restaurants, because I knew it would be quite a while before I would be able to tolerate it again. After dinner, we went home and watched a movie and tried to relax.
On Sunday morning, my wife woke up feeling crummy—bad back pain, which quickly became neck and head pain, and then nausea and vomiting. She tried not to complain, because she didn’t want to me to worry before surgery, but I knew she was suffering. We called the on-call OB/GYN, who told us he wasn’t convinced it was pregnancy-related, but told us to go to Urgent Care if it got any worse. My wife tried to rest (between nausea-necessitated sprints to the bathroom), and I got things in order for surgery—charging the iPad and laptop, paying bills, scanning insurance statements, washing my robe, collecting my hospital paperwork, shaving patches on my hands and arms for the IVs, consuming nothing but clear liquids.
Mid-morning, I left the house to run some pre-surgery errands (you know, important stuff like getting the cars washed). When I got home an hour or so later, my wife was in tears from her pain, and we headed to Urgent Care. After a 90-minute wait, we were finally seen. Although the baby’s heartbeat sounded fine through the doppler sonar (after an uncomfortably long wait for the doctor to find it with her busted equipment), my wife’s blood pressure was through the roof. They could run tests there or we could go to the hospital. We left Urgent Care as quickly as my wife could get dressed and headed to the hospital. Labor & Delivery unit. Just 27 weeks pregnant.
We were admitted immediately. My wife’s blood pressure continued to skyrocket (205/115 at one point). They tested her blood (for liver function) and urine (for protein). Both tests confirmed my wife was suffering from preeclampsia, the only cure for which is to deliver the baby. Deliver the baby. At first, the doctor was talking about “keeping her pregnant” as long as possible. But this soon became “not leaving the hospital” before the baby arrives. Which I took to mean a very long hospital stay. Months.
I asked the doctor if I needed to postpone my surgery, and he said simply, “Yes.”
They gave my wife a steroid injection to help mature the baby’s lungs in case they had to deliver (deliver!), and suddenly the timeframe shifted to two days—when the steroid would have reached maximum effectiveness. 27 weeks, and two days.
And then the high-risk pregnancy obstetrician arrived, reviewed the test results, did an ultrasound, measured the baby, turned to us, and said:
“I think we need to deliver the baby.”
27 weeks. What happened next is a blur. Calls to family and friends, pleas on Facebook for prayers, dropping the bombshell on her unexpecting parents (who had come to town to help with my surgery because she wasn’t feeling well), being handed a set of scrubs, and walking beside my wife as she was wheeled into surgery for an emergency c-section.
I waited in the hall outside the operating room as they started the epidural and got her positioned. It took forever. They gave me a chair. I didn’t sit. I paced. I cried. A female janitor cleaning the other OR saw me, propped her mop in the doorway, brought me a cup of water, grabbed both of my wrists, looked me in the eyes, and said, “It’s going to be fine. G-d is with you.” I cried some more.
They finally led me into the room, shielding my wife from view as I walked to the back, to the other side of the curtain, where I could sit and look into my wife’s eyes, and touch her face. We cried. I brushed her hair with my fingers, and softly grazed her forehead and cheek. I told her it would be OK, not sure if I was lying. And then there were soft cries in the background and someone said cheerfully, “It’s a girl.” A girl. Those were her cries.
After a couple minutes, they led me around to see our daughter for the first time, as the neonatal intensive care unit doctors went to work. She was crying and kicking and flailing her arms. Bright pink, and impossibly tiny. But alive.
July 1, 2012, 5:43 pm, 13 inches, 1 lb, 11 oz.
Four days later, and Mom and baby are doing well. Baby’s in the NICU, breathing with minimal assistance (CPAP only, with no oxygen assist), she’s taking milk to her stomach, no emergencies. A miracle.
Breathe, eat, and grow, baby girl. My surgery can wait.