Picking up where we left off... (If you missed the posts leading up to this one, click here for Part I, here for Part II, here for Part III, and here for Part IV). As you read this, please understand that this was very difficult for me to write. There are so many emotions wrapped up in this part of the story, emotions that I know a lot of you out there can relate to. It is also very long.
So, Jeremy and Shannon had just finished cooking the spaghetti dinner when I jumped up from the couch and yelled "Oh $#!%, my water just broke!" Luckily I was wearing my new faux crocs that I had bought a mere 6 hours earlier, and did not ruin my nice shoes. I ran upstairs to the bathroom and Jeremy called the doctor's office, while Shannon busied herself putting dinner in plastic bowls. When I looked, there was no meconium in the fluid, so that was good news. For those of you who may not know, meconium is the baby's first poop. If there is meconium in the amniotic fluid it means the baby is in distress. I was not having contractions but of course my mind was swimming. The doctor on call asked the important questions and said to take it easy and get to the hospital within two hours and he would meet us there. No rush. Good!
Since I was only 37 weeks and 5 days along and had already scheduled the c-section for the beginning of the next week, I thought I had a couple of days to get ready to go to the hospital. I had not packed a bag of my stuff or Marissa's stuff. We had, by the way, been told that despite her "issues", they would probably keep her in the special care nursery for a couple of days for observation, probably as long as I was required to stay for surgery recovery, and then we should be able to bring her home. So I had Jeremy quickly pack a bag for us and we called our immediate family members to let them know what was going on. I did not eat anything since I knew I was most likely going into surgery soon and I think Jeremy was too nervous, excited, scared and busy to eat. Shannon took off a short time later and Jeremy and I sat down on the couch to collect our thoughts. We held each other close and talked about how the next time we'd come home, we would have a new bundle with us. Little did we realize how wrong we were.
We got to the hospital and they got me into a room. I changed into the gown and laid down on the bed as the nurse started hooking up the monitors. I think it was more nerves than being cold but I started shivering. The nurse asked Jeremy if he could go get me a warm blanket and told him where he could find them. Jeremy came back with a couple of pink and blue striped baby blankets. The nurse chuckled as she told Jeremy of his mistake. He smiled sheepishly and went back to get me the adult sized blankets. I can still remember how good those warm blankets felt at that moment.
As I lay on the bed, the nurse began asking me questions about my pregnancy. A short time later I started feeling contractions. They weren't really strong, which I was grateful for. One nurse came in and told me that the doctor who would be performing the c-section had arrived at the hospital and was being briefed on my situation. Unfortunately, because my water spontaneously broke, my OB was not on call and would not be there to do the c-section. This other doc had another c-section to do and then I would be next, probably in about 2 hours. I was getting ready to settle in (as much as one can settle in while having contractions!) when one of the nurses pulled back the blankets to check the position of the monitors. She looked up at me and asked if I knew that I had meconium in my amniotic fluid. WHAT?!?
I told the nurse no, that wasn't there last time I checked. I immediately panicked and they told me I needed to stay calm so the baby would not go deeper into distress than she already was. One nurse left for a few minutes. When she returned she informed us that she let the doctor know of the new developments and he said that he was bumping me up as an emergency c-section. They would be wheeling me into the operating room within the next ten minutes. My whole body went numb with fear. Jeremy and I looked at each other and I felt the urge to just jump up and hold him. I could see the color had left his face, and I was immediately worried about him and how he was dealing with all this. Neither of us had any words to say to one another. He just held my hand and we sat silently as the nurses busied themselves getting me ready to go. They were explaining the procedures and how things were going to go... epidural, Jeremy not being able to join me until after the epidural was placed, the NICU team that would be present to take the baby and assess her after she was born, and so on. We listened intently. It was 9:45 p.m.
They wheeled me in my hospital bed down the hall to the OR and stopped at a doorway. They let Jeremy know this was where he was to wait until they had the epidural in. He leaned in to kiss me and I got really scared at that point. For at least the next few minutes both he and I were going to be alone, without anyone else around who really knew us. I, by the way, had told my sister Michelle to just stay home because she would probably just be spending the night in an uncomfortable chair in the waiting room being pretty bored. Oh how I wished at that moment I had not told her that. She could have at least come to be with Jeremy while he waited. Hindsight truly is 20/20.
They took me into the OR and I remember thinking to myself how bright and white it was in that room. Stark. They got me onto the operating table and then the anesthesiologist did my epidural. I laid back down and immediately felt my legs go warm, then numb. I was so happy to see Jeremy come in. He came to be by my side and we kissed and said hi to one another. Even though I could see he was scared too, he was my rock.
The doctors and nurses were buzzing around for a few minutes. I decided to chime in and ask "so, you are going to tell me when you are about to cut me open, right?" The doctor said, "well, you're already open." Jeremy stood up and looked. I was very glad at that point that I could not see what was going on down there. For the next few minutes, Jeremy kept standing up and then sitting back down next to my head, giving me a running commentary of what was happening. I felt the tugging but no pain, like everyone said I would. I heard a nurse say "there's her little rump!" and Jeremy gave a little sigh/giggle. He then said that he saw her little arm pop up into the air and her fingers sprawled out, as if she was waving "hi!". He giggled again. All of a sudden I heard the nurse say, "she's out and she's got blonde hair!" Marissa Lynne Cortez was born at 10:20 p.m. on March 13, 2007. She weighed 5 lbs, 4 oz and was 18 inches long.
It was silent for a brief moment that seemed like an eternity and then we heard a faint cry. Oh Joy!!
The NICU team took Marissa over to the table and started working on cleaning her up. They soon showed up on my side of the curtain with my beautiful little girl wrapped in a blanket with a cute little hat on her head. She was crying and Jeremy and I both noticed immediately that her chin was small and her lower jaw seemed to sink in quite far. She also was squeaking every time she breathed in.
The NICU team took her away from me after what seemed like only half a second. They soon came and told Jeremy and I that they were taking her to the NICU and he might want to come with them. He kissed me quickly and was gone. All of a sudden, I had no husband. I had no baby. A piece of my heart and soul, and quite literally my body, gone in a flash. I was utterly alone in a room full of strangers that were fully responsible for my life at that very moment. I was in shock. I am known as a bit of a cryer, but the tears would not come. I was numb.
The next span of time is a blur. I have no idea how long it took to sew me back up. I can't remember leaving the OR. I don't remember the ride down the hallway. Next thing I knew, I was in a recovery room with the two nurses that had taken care of me since I got to the hospital. I kept hearing a little dinging sound (one I would come to know very well) and one nurse kept telling me to breathe deeply or they would have to put the nasal cannula with O2 back in. I was trying to breathe deeply but I was so drowsy. They ended up giving me the nasal cannula back. One nurse kept leaving and coming back. She came back one time with an update. She said they had to intubate my newborn daughter but that she was stable now. As the daughter of two EMTs I knew what intubate meant. It still did not register with me that my daughter was sick enough to need a machine to breathe for her. I still thought she would be out of the NICU and coming home with us in no time. I just didn't get it.
Jeremy came in at some point and I could see he had color back in his face, however, it was green. There was a little bathroom on the other side of the room I was in and he kept going to it. Back and forth. He didn't really say much. He just kept going to the bathroom. I, for some reason, didn't think anything of it. Man, I was out of it! He told me later he kept going in there because he thought he was going to throw up and he was trying not to cry. He was trying to be strong for me, to protect me.
When I was deemed stable, the nurses told me that they were going to take me up to the Mother Baby Unit. I can only now appreciate the irony of the Mother Baby Unit. So often, the mother is there without her baby. I was not the only one that night.
The nurses first wheeled me into the NICU to see my baby girl. Jeremy was walking beside me as they brought me to Marissa's bedside. I looked at her lying there and I was regrettably still numb. I knew I loved her and was worried for her, but through a cloud of drugs and my brain wanting to protect me from yet another trauma, I didn't let it sink in what was really going on with her. The NICU nurse in charge of Marissa for the night started talking to us about what they had done for her so far, what medications she was on, and what they had found was wrong with her so far... so far. Still not registering. I held Jeremy's hand and we looked down at our little girl, paralyzed, with tubes and wires coming out everywhere. Still numb.
I was soon wheeled up to the Mother Baby Unit and squeezed into the tiny corner of a room that was already occupied by a sleeping new family of three; three like we were supposed to be. Jeremy waited in the hall with our bags that were packed for both Marissa and I. When I was settled, Jeremy came in and set the bags down. He quickly realized there was absolutely nowhere for him to stay. He reluctantly told me that he would head home, that Marissa and I would be fine, that we had great nurses to take care of us and that he would be back early in the morning. It was already 1:00 a.m. I agreed and we kissed each other, squeezed each other's hands and said goodnight. I learned later from Jeremy that he cried the whole way home. He even said he didn't need his glasses to be able to see because all the tears made his vision clear.
That was it. All three of us were alone. Separated. Marissa and I had a full staff of nurses and doctors taking care of us, but we were still alone. Jeremy had never been more alone.
This is the first and last time we would hear our little one's true voice for almost a year.
To be continued...