It was another sweltering day in July 2004. I was all finished teaching summer school, and had no big plans other than reading and scrap booking. I wasn’t feeling the best that day, just a general feeling of malaise, so I pretty much laid around until it was time to go to my 34 week check-up.
Kevin had been planning on going with me, but then ended up working on a big project instead. Our doula had been going to go with me, but she had something come up too. I told them both that it was no big deal, just a routine appointment, they could come next time.
Little did I know how far from routine we were about to diverge.
Nearly the first thing I did was get weighed. I had gained a lot more weight than normal, so the nurse said we’d better check my urine. When she dipped the test strip she exclaimed, “Oh my GOSH! I’ve never even seen it turn that color before!” and rushed out of the room.
Rita, my midwife, came in right away, and told me basically I was already severely pre-eclamptic, my kidneys and liver were already starting to shut down because of the toxemia in my body, even though my blood pressure was still normal. She told me to call Kevin and whoever else I needed to, and commence to prayin’ because I was getting admitted to the hospital and wouldn’t be going home without my baby, one way or another.
Almost immediately (which in hospital time involves a lot of waiting) I got admitted. My sister and Cora came down to keep me company, for which I was grateful. I was feeling sure that everything was in God’s Hands, but feeling surprised and nervous about having Aviana like this and having a preemie.
They hooked me up to an IV and started Magnesium Sulfate, which is supposed to prevent seizures and my going into shock. All it really did was make me really sick. I threw up about every time I moved. By this time, Kevin and our doula had arrived. Poor guy had packed a lot of things for me and the new arrival, but forgot anything for himself. We live half an hour away from the hospital too, so it’s not like he could just run home. My parents and brother came too.
Rita and the doctors decided to start the induction process. That evening they gave me Cervadil, which is supposed to ripen and soften the cervix. It didn’t really work. The next morning they started Pitocin, which is supposed to start contractions, dilation and officially bring on labor. It didn’t really work. I was continually getting sicker and sicker. I had a headache that no amount of narcotics was even touching. The doctors were thinking this was a sign that I was about to go into shock.
By the evening of the 21st, more than 24 hours later, my condition had seriously worsened and labor hadn’t even started. We decided that the best way for Aviana to meet the world is via Cesarean.
This entire process was orchestrated by God’s hand. We found out that if I had dilated at all and they had broken the waters, as planned, Aviana’s placenta was such that she would have hemorrhaged and died within minutes! Additionally, her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck.
“He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close His heart.” -Isaiah 40:11
She was incredibly healthy for a 34 weeker. She cried so much at birth they were worried she would hurt herself. She had to be in the NICU for precautionary reasons, and she was a little jaundiced as well, so had to spend some time under the bilirubin light. The pediatrician was doing his level best to be accommodating, but he had never met anyone like me. I wanted her with me, I wanted her to not get formula, I wanted her to be touched and held all the time. She was never in any danger; she was off her oxygen and feeding tube almost right away.
I started pumping because I was planning on breast feeding, and of course I had no milk or even the right hormones to even get some in. We bought some milk from the Breast Milk Bank in Iowa City, which they delivered. It was the first time anyone had ever done that at our hospital, so there were all kinds of hurdles to go through. I sweet talked the night nurse into letting Aviana co-sleep with me, which I felt was so important for bonding. I never even got to hold her the first day of her life, as I was still too sick, and she had to be whisked away.
On day five, we finally were discharged and got to go home! Kevin’s mom was at our house with stuffed green peppers, which might possibly be the best meal I’ll ever eat.
Pictures from her first week can be seen here.
We finally did get breast feeding established, and despite several bouts of thrush, stuck with it for a wonderful 18 months. Aviana turned out to be a classic high-needs baby, which I never learned the name for until she was seven months old. I remember reading Dr. Sears’ book , crying the entire way through it, realizing I wasn’t a bad mama, I wasn’t the only one, it wasn’t just my child. I have no idea how much of her terrible fussiness was due to her innate God given personality, and how much was due to her traumatic birth experience.
I could only hope the next birth would be a gentler entry into the world.