Whoa! What is the most surreal moment I have ever had? Most definitely, it would have to be the birth of Carson.
Sunday May 28, 2000: Tom decides he needs to spend the day with a buddy watching the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. The baby’s due date is just six days away, and he views this as his last hurrah. Tom spends the day being a man’s man: drinking beer, eating chicken wings, and watching cars turn circles over and over again.
10:00 PM: Tom arrives home, and he decides he needs to go directly to bed. He is
drunk tired. He needs some sleep.
12:00 AM: I have not fallen asleep because I have been experiencing tension in my abdomen. I am unsure if this is labor or just Braxton-Hicks, so I lay in bed and monitor how I feel.
2:00 AM: I decide it is labor. The pains are coming more readily and more intensely. I decide to wake Tom.
“Tom,” I whisper, shaking him lightly.
“Tom,” I say a bit louder, shaking him a bit more roughly.
“Huh?” he groans.
“I think I’m in labor.”
“Okay.” He rolls over onto his shoulder, takes a deep breath, and falls back to sleep.
Hmmm. He doesn’t seem concerned, so I imagine I can lay her until morning.
Suddenly, Tom springs up and turns on the light. He is very awake and very coherent. “Are you having contractions?”
“How far apart?”
“Like ten minutes.”
“When are we supposed to go to the hospital?” he asks rubbing my belly.
“When they are five minutes apart.”
We sit together monitoring my pain.
4:30 AM: I have had three consecutive contractions at five minutes apart. We agree that it is time to get up, get dressed, and pack a bag.
5 AM: I am in triage in the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus strapped to a baby monitor. A nice Indian doctor with an accent I can barely understand looks at the data sheets spewing from the monitor, checks my dilation and effacement, and says, “Your contractions are three and a half minutes apart, but you are only two centimeters dilated and 20% effaced. You are not ready to have this baby. Go home. If you go to a Memorial Day picnic, don’t eat too much.”
Wait. What? A Memorial Picnic? Three and half minutes apart? I was told to come to the hospital when my contractions were five minutes apart. I came and now he is sending me home? I have no idea when to come back. The rules of labor don’t make any sense, and the contractions are getting more and more intense.
I want to cry as I sign the papers releasing me from the hospital.
8:00 AM: We are back at our apartment. Tom is trying to nap. I am in the living room contemplating jumping off the balcony, it hurts so badly. The pain is literally paralyzing and I begin to cry. Tom comes out of our room and rubs my back gently. “Maybe we should walk. I remember reading that walking helps. Let’s go to your parents, drop off the dog, and walk around the neighborhood.”
“Okay,” I say through tears.
9:00 AM: We walk from my parents driveway to the stop sign. Oh, did I tell you they have the corner house? The stop sign is inches away. I cannot walk, it hurts too much.
Watching me in pain, Tom begins to stress. “This is fucking ridiculous. You could be ready to have this baby right now! I’m calling the hospital.”
9:02 AM: A new doctor is on shift. She asks Tom to put me on the phone, but I am in the middle of a contraction and all she can hear is me moan and groan.
“Bring her down,” the nice doctor says. We can help her.
9:30 AM: We are back in triage and nothing feels right. I feel sick.
“I think I am going to be….” I projectile vomit all over the floor.
“I am so sorry. Please. I am so sorry,” I say to the nurse.
“It’s okay, Honey. Maybe you should go to the restroom,” she says guiding me toward a toilet.
Yes, I need the restroom, and a bucket. It is coming out both ends. I cannot make it stop. The contractions are still coming. I am miserable.
10:00 AM: I am given some kind of drug to take the edge off. I’m ordered to walk the halls because I am still 2 centimeters dilated and 30% effaced. Nothing is changing.
Four hours of hell.
2:00 PM: The nice doctor sees how awful this experience is for me. “I think we will break your water,” she says to me. “You are not dilating and your contractions are two minutes apart. Breaking your water might get your body moving.”
2:10 PM: “Your water is full of meconium,” she says.
I know this word, but I cannot remember it, but I know it is bad.
“We will need to have extra hands in the room to help the baby avoid ingesting meconium.” She smiles as she looks into my eyes. “We are not going to worry, though.”
I believe her.
“I’m going to order an epidural and get you out of pain.”
3:00PM: The anesthesiologist administers the epidural.
3:30 PM: The pain is gone. The Indians are on the television and for the first time in a long time, I feel like myself.
4:30 PM: “Tom, I am feeling pain. I think there is something wrong.” The pain is pulsing down my left leg.
“That’s impossible. You had an epidural,” he says.
“I know, but please get the nurse. It really hurts.”
I can see that he feels that I am exaggerating or making up phantom pain. I hear him apologize to the nurse. As she walks in, I can feel that this visit is to placate me because surely I could not be feeling pain. She checks the monitor.
“Oh good God,” she says shocked. “No one ever turned the epidural on. I need to call anesthesiology.”
I smile smugly at Tom because he did not believe me.
4:45 PM: Another direct shot makes me completely numb from the waste down. I cannot feel my legs or feet at all.
11:00 PM: “Okay,” the nurse says. “You are ten centimeters dilated. It’s time to start pushing.”
“I can’t feel anything.” I am still completely paralyzed.
“That’s okay. Just bear down. Your body will know what to do.”
“What about the doctor?” Tom asks. He looks concerned.
“She and a team will be in when the baby starts to crown.”
11:54 PM: Not much change. Baby is not crowning. I’m exhausted. “Can you get forceps?” I plead. I do not want to do this any longer.
The nurse laughs. “You’re doing fine. You don’t want a baby with a deformed head. We will just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Or I will: PUSH!
12:30 AM: Modesty is out the window. There are literally ten people in this room looking at my hoo-haa. Everyone has on masks and some of the people are holding suction devices. It is getting close to the baby being born, and they are armed and ready to attack the meconium.
1:02 AM: “The head is about to deliver. Everyone ready?” the nice doctor says to the team. Everyone nods and moves a bit closer. “Okay, Cheryl, one big push.” I bare down and push. I hear sucking sounds. I look at Tom and he looks amazed and horrified at the same time. The baby is covered in meconium, a green liquidy mess.
1:05 AM: “Just one more,” the doctor says. One push and she is out. “It’s a girl. Congratulations,” she says excited for us, but preoccupied with the events of the moment. The baby faintly cries, the doctor cuts the umbilical cord, and the baby is immediately moved to a table. Five people surround her, washing her, checking her vitals, still sucking out her ears, nose, and mouth.
1:07 AM: She is taken to the NICU, a level 3 NICU. I hear someone say she might have to be moved. To where, I wonder, but I am so tired and delirious and excited to have had a baby, that it doesn’t really hit me that she is not with us, that we have not held her, that she has been taken away.
2:10 AM: Tom and I wait patiently for word about what is going on. I am getting frustrated and scared. Can’t someone tell us what is going on?
3:30 AM: A doctor I have never seen before walks in the room. He talks about the possibility of pneumonia and infection. She is in an incubator, she needs oxygen, she is not breathing well on her own. “We have very high hopes she will be fine, but we need to monitor her. She is in an incubator.”
None of what he says is sinking in. Is it serious? Could she be mentally retarded by the meconium? Will she be able to walk or talk or ever ride a bike?
“I need to get some sleep,” Tom admits. “If they are going to monitor her until morning, I am going to go home, take a shower, and take a nap. You should try to nap, too,” he says.
I try, to no avail.
6:00 AM: Three doctors with clipboards walk in my room. “Ma’am, we need to life flight your baby to Metro Hospital. They have a level 5 NICU, and we want to make sure your baby gets the best care possible. The helicopter is on the way.”
6:03 AM: “Tom, they are taking her to Metro. Come back!”
7:00 AM: They wheel in an incubator. My baby is hooked up to tubes and needles and oxygen. She is so small, so innocent. Please God. Please let her be okay. Tom and I touch the incubator, we cannot touch the child. “I love you, Carson.” This is the first time I have addressed her. This is the first time I have said her name to her.
9:00 AM: “Okay, well this has been a difficult night,” the new doctor says to me. “How are you feeling?”
Hmm. My legs are tingly. I am exhausted. My child has been life-flighted. “Okay,” I say.
“All right. We are going to take your vitals and make sure you are okay. I think we can have you out of here by eleven,” he says. I swallow hard. I have not slept. I do not think I can walk. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. “You do want to go be with your baby?” he asks.
Is that protocol? “Yes,” I say.
9:45 AM: A nurse. Instructions. Blood, Sitz Bath. Walking. Bleeding. “Any clot egg-size or smaller is fine to pass. Anything bigger, and you need to go directly to an emergency room.”
I had not thought about bleeding out.
11:00 AM: Getting into the car on the way to another hospital. I am woozy. I am weak. I am tired. I gave birth less than twelve hours earlier, and I have been discharged from the hospital. I am scared. I am worried. I am the new mother of a sick child.
7 days later: Carson comes home. She had suffered from pneumonia and infection, nothing more.
12 and 1/2 years later: She is a straight A student about to compete in the local Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee (having won her way in), a dancer, a guitar player, a knitter, and an all-around kick ass kid.