14 years ago, I woke up this morning - at 28 weeks pregnant - and felt that something just wasn't quite right. I tried to shrug it off.
The Evil Twin and I got ready for work and stopped by my parents' house for breakfast. My mom noticed I was unusually reserved. I'm shy by nature, but if I've known you long enough and feel comfortable, I can be quite genial.
There are other times I am quiet because that's my mood. And, there are times I am quiet because I am preoccupied by something weighing on my mind.
January 21, 1998 I was quiet because I felt "off."
We had so many problems getting pregnant, losing several along the way and then once we knew we had a keeper, I had too much amniotic fluid. I was monitored closely.
At 18 weeks, the results from my AFP (alpha fetal protein) test came back high for neural tube defects (spina bifida, anencephaly, etc.) Some of these birth defects are not compatible with life, so we were terrified. How could I get to 18 weeks - clearly showing a massive baby bump - and the baby might not live after delivery? Why was this happening?
The next morning, we went to a Level 2 ultrasound. The baby had all necessary parts and nothing was amiss. We also found out we'd be having a boy!
We had no clue he'd be born 10 weeks later, at only 28 weeks. He was 2lbs, 5oz. He was not delivered (by emergency c-section) with a cry or even a good color. He received an APGAR score of ONE. A zero is for the stillborn babies.
The Evil Twin witnessed the whole ordeal, since it was such an emergency, there was no time to place a drape in front of me.
I can't even remember how many people were in the room, but he was pulled out - someone shouted "It's a boy!" I said weakly, "I know."
I didn't see him or anything for hours after that. (We couldn't hold him for nine long days while he was on the vent). He was rushed to NICU, put on a ventilator and attached to more tubes and wires I've ever seen on a person that size. Heck, I had never even seen a person that size.
Ironically, he was born on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Many states allow abortions even at 28 weeks (or later). And, there my son was, fighting for life. So very much wanted.
He was about 4 days old in this picture and that is me, changing his itty bitty diaper.
For being born so early and so sick, the only trauma he really experienced from his early arrival was developing ROP (retinopathy of prematurity), which is a very common eye condition with the preemies. He has worn glasses since he was 18 mos. old. He had laser eye surgery in early April - before his due date, even - at 4lbs, 4oz.
It was a tough year for all of us, but I thank God every day he is healthy, has a great sense of humor and really makes my life interesting!
Have a great Saturday, hooligans!
PS. I keep this poem close to me at all times. I post it every year, so I figure it's a tradition at this point:
By Garrison Keillor
When I first saw you, kid, you were tiny and thin,
And slimy and red and your head was mushed in,
I says to your mother, "He looks kind of sloppy,
And two pounds four ounces ain't big for a crappie."
But something about you, the look in your eyes,
Said you fully intended to grow to full size,
They slapped your backside and you let out a cry,
And I said, "We will keep him, at least we shall try."
Some babies are born in nine months, by the clock,
Some babies are born, and they sit up and talk,
Some babies are born, and no doctor is there.
Some babies are born, on a wing and a prayer.
Poor little fetus, as big as your hand,
Poor little fish thrown up on dry land,
Who came in April, though he had till July,
Too small to live and too precious to die.
They shipped you downstairs to the big Neonatal
Intensive Care Unit's computerized cradle
And attached you to wires and stuck you with tubes
Monitored closely by digital cubes.
And thanks to the latest neonatal therapeusis
And regular basting with greases from gooses
And hot chicken soup intravenously fed
You did not fade away, you grew up instead.
We'll always remember those months that you spent
With tubes in your head in the oxygen tent
And the mask on your face with the wires attached,
Sweet little boy who was only half-hatched.
I'm sure you'll grow up to mature and extend,
To six feet six inches and become a tight end,
But I'll always remember each doctor and nurse in
The NICU who helped make you a person,
The kid who crash landed, who was carried away,
Who survived it, this bundle we bring home today.