So. Here we are again. After 72 hours of pain and suffering, a cesarean, three days in the hospital coupled with six weeks of “healing” (and to this day) flashes of pain from an unremovable paper towel-sized roll of scar tissue, and deciding not to have another child; well, we decided to have another child.
It’s funny how life, time, and experience change our perspective. At this point, my first born was two, and it was time. I had been on Depo and decided not to get my next injection. The fun was about to begin. Again.
A dash of this, a dash of that, and wait, wait, wait, wait. Or so we thought.
After several months of Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday night fever; not to mention Sundays after beer and football, we weren’t getting any results. My poor husband was worn out, chafed, and exhausted. I could see the dread in his eyes when I said: “Let’s have some fun!” How many wives can say that?
With Christmas looming and the hope the season brings, I was starting to get excited. I thought his little guys had made the connection. I was hoping on Christmas Day I could give him the gift of fatherhood squared. That plan never came to fruition. Aunt Flo showed up on Christmas, just like an unwanted distant relative for Christmas Dinner.
I Thought Making A Baby Was Supposed to Be Fun
I was starting to feel that it just wasn’t time for us to have another baby. It’s ironic that Mary was a virgin, and I was, let’s just admit at this point, not. So, we stopped trying and just enjoyed the unrestrained and only version of parental fun we knew of. I guess in retrospect; that was the conduit. The condomless means to an end. The set and forget, the Mr. Popeil pasta maker; “When is it ready Ron?” “Well, Suzy (pause) it’s ready now!”
In January, when I actually forgot why I was so generous and willing, I peed on yet another stick from the Dollar Tree, carefully jumped down the stairs and informed my husband he was no longer required to partake in the fruits of a seemingly long, long, winter.
We Were Having a Baby. Again.
This pregnancy, besides the swollen ankles attitude and hormones, was much different than my first. I was a pro now, right? I had this one in the bag. I enjoyed being pregnant this time. We scheduled a cesarean for September 22nd.
We were more prepared. I was feeling more optimistic, thinking the first debacle of childbirth was behind me and I was excited for the growth of our family. As our due date approached, I was ready. Mentally as well as physically. I was a little more scared this time. Not of the task of being a parent at hand, but because of the pain I knew was coming and the recovery time – I’d been through it before.
My husband was feeling good about this surgery and spoke of the ability to eat a ham sandwich while watching another human being ripped from my so well-earned incision. Geez. Men and their food. When is it not a good time to eat?
In the end, no deli sandwiches were involved, and everything went according to plan. We had a healthy and beautiful baby boy. “Jacob” was here and it only took an hour. Not seventy-two. Let the healing begin.
Welcome Baby Boy #2
He was very much welcomed by the family and was an amazing baby. He slept through the night from day one and was just a wide-eyed wonder. Honestly, to this day his pupils are as wide as the Precious Moments greeting cards, and we sometimes wonder whether he’s been dropped a few squares of the good brown paper from Woodstock.
At home, we were on a familiar schedule. Eat, sleep, poop, sleep. Wash, rinse, and repeat. We were in the clear. No anomalies. So we thought.
And Then, Things Took A Turn
One night, eight days after he was born, I noticed he was a little warm. I took his temperature, and he had a slight fever. Reluctantly, I gave him a little Tylenol. His fever didn’t go down. It climbed to 102.9. That was too quick and too much. I called the pediatrician and was advised to take him to the hospital. A normal temperature for a baby three months and under is 97 to 100.3 degrees.
When we arrived his temperature was at 103.2, and I was not aware of the concern we were about to experience. Immediately the doctors wanted to perform a spinal tap. (Record scratch) (Brake squeal) Why is this happening!? What did I do? Why can’t we just have the “normal experience” we’ve all been taught about in sex ed? Not two cesareans and three days of labor for only two children, and a needle in my eight-day-old son’s spine?
This was the doctors’ concern, and we learned fast how dire the situation could be. That year alone (2005), one in every ten babies died from the bacterial infection. Our parental bliss was beginning to fade, and we were scared. I had never heard my son scream like he did when they did the spinal tap. It was heartbreaking. My motherly instinct was to get these horrible people off of my baby. They were hurting him.
I knew they were trying to help him, but I’ve never heard help that sounded that painful.
He was admitted to the hospital for eight days. It was pure hell. My husband had to practically force me to leave the hospital to take a break. Jacob’s test results came back saying he was negative for meningitis. He maintained a temperature that did not go below 101, despite the alternation of Motrin and Tylenol. We watched as Jacob was put through countless tests. Electrodes were on his head, monitoring brain activity. Sixteen hours of fasting. Several moments of useless poking and prodding.
They seemed to have forgotten this was someone’s child and not just another exam to get a crappy job in the middle American town we lived in. When you see your child being put through so much, a lump hardens in your throat and refuses to go away.
He began to develop a rash. Not so much a rash, but what appeared to be bruising all over his body. He was turning purple and blue. That anomaly just intensified the poking and prodding. Then, to make things worse, one evening a nurse thought he had a seizure. I did not see it. Trust me; I was watching him the entire time. She had no medical evidence, and I was wary that she might try to push it in another direction for scholastic gain or nurse brownie points.
She was “sure” even thought the nodes and wires they had him hooked up to didn’t indicate it was true at all. This prompted the doctors to administer Phenobarbital to help prevent any more seizures. After researching this drug for just a few minutes, we instructed the doctors that unless they had proof or any actual data to go off of, our son would not receive this last resort drug or be their little human guinea pig any longer.
Strangely, after we took matters into our own hands, my purple and blue baby returned to his normal color, and his fever dropped to 99. Funny how that works.
They considered releasing him but told us to wait until morning to see if there was any drastic turn for the worse. We stayed for one more night and the next day we were finally able to take our Jacob home.
What Motherhood Teaches You
I know now, as the mother of three, that nothing is cut and dry. There is no gold standard to childbirth. Nothing can be expected to go as planned. If you count on expectation, it will surely let you down.
It will, however, teach you more than you knew before you assumed you just knew you “knew it all.” The moral of this birth is: expect the unexpected. Despite believing you’ve experienced the worst version of childbirth, besides death.
Know that anything can and will happen. It just might not be as grim as the “moment” makes it out to be. Knowing Jacob now, I’m more worried when he’s alone in his room, alone outside, alone in the ocean, or just right in front of me flipping his body upside down.
Eleven years later, I’ll never forget the feeling of just plain out worrying because he came out of that painful paper towel-shaped scar just below my belly button that I’ll never be rid of.
Even with the pain, why would I ever want to forget that?
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