As I was washing my hands earlier, I glanced down at the back of my right hand and noticed something that didn’t look right. It was a little mark no bigger than the diameter of a pencil eraser. At first, it looked like a bug bite. Upon closer examination, I realized what it was. I had forgotten all about it until that moment. It was a reminder of the birth of my youngest child.
When I became pregnant, I would never have anticipated the outcome. I could not have known then that before reaching the third trimester, I would be in a hospital bed awaiting the inevitable arrival of a premature baby. I never would have expected the month of blood pressure and temperature readings every four hours or being awakened before 6AM by the intern on rounds asking if I was having any contractions. I would never have imagined that I would be left with scars on my wrists from the multiple IVs that had to be changed every three days.
And yet, almost two years later, those scars are still there as a reminder of what I went through to bring my daughter into the world.
They say that scars tell a story. If that’s true, mine tell two very different stories about a mother for whom things did not go as planned.
The first is a remnant of my emergency C-section. At 41 weeks, I still had not gone into labor. So, I was scheduled for an induction.
The hospital was busy with women having babies that day. This meant that despite having been scheduled for that morning and following orders not to eat or drink anything after a certain time, I was sitting at home in my living room until about 2PM before we even got the okay to drive to the hospital and wait there. Finally, I was checked in about 4 hours later at which point I was told that I needed to have my cervix softened over the next 12 hours. Only then would I be given the medicine to start labor. Thankfully, I was allowed to skip this step when the monitor showed that I was having mini-contractions. The nurse hooked me up to a Pitocin drip and (since I hadn’t eaten anything in 24 hours) gave me a popsicle.
The contractions intensified overnight, and it wasn’t long before I was requesting an epidural. I didn’t feel it when my water broke, but when it did, the doctor told us that there was meconium present. I had only dilated to a 3, so we began talking C-section. I had already prepared for this possibility. Somehow, I knew that I might be following in my mother’s footsteps.
We decided to wait for an hour to see how I progressed. At the end of this time, I was still at a 3. So, I was prepped for surgery, and with someone from the NICU standing by in case baby needed to be suctioned out, daughter #1 was born.
With daughter #2, I got to experience something I hadn’t with the first. The feeling of my water breaking. At 24 weeks. I thought I had lost bladder control, but when it kept coming in little gushes, we knew there was a problem. Still, all the way to the hospital, I was hoping to be laughed at as the woman who went to the ER because she had wet herself.
When we got there, however, no one was laughing. In fact, when they found out how far along I wasn’t, it became clear how serious the situation was. My local hospital was not equipped to deal with my case, so it wasn’t long before I was loaded into the back of an ambulance and taken to another hospital where I was admitted to the high-risk pregnancy wing.
So began the waiting. And hoping. And praying. Then, one morning, when the intern came by to ask if I was having contractions, I had to say, “Yes, I think so”. The monitor confirmed, and I was moved to Labor and Delivery.
I progressed quickly and delivered a few short hours later in a room packed to capacity. Between the two teams (one for me and one for her), there were at least 30 people there. No C-section this time; in fact, baby came so fast there was almost not enough time for the epidural.
It was now her turn to be poked and prodded and hooked up to machines and monitors. And she, too, has a scar that tells her story.
Today, the scars have faded somewhat, as have the memories, but they are still there. And from time to time they catch me off guard. They sneak up on me to remind me of the pain and the trauma. The struggle for survival.
But they also remind me of the joy of bringing home a healthy baby. For that I would have endured a thousand more.