I lost my second pregnancy last year shortly before Independence Day. While everyone feasted on grilled hot dogs and barbecue ribs, I despaired over my empty womb and wondered where the soul of my lost child went. Was it trapped in one of those waste containers where they throw "the contents of contraception" away after a D&C operation? News of my pregnancy had been met with doubt rather than elation. I intuitively felt that having been surrounded by all of the negative energy, the child had simply decided to go back. Why hadn't my desire been strong enough for it to stay?
My husband, Allen, and I tried to conceive yet again. I became pregnant again several months later a week before Christmas in 1997. When I went to my first prenatal appointment in January, my obstetrician refused to proceed with routine tests until the viability of the baby was confirmed by ultrasound. She didn't want to invest in doing all the tests if another miscarriage was imminent. While at work one afternoon, a few days before my ultrasound appointment, I experienced some moderate bleeding. "Oh no! Not again," I thought. "Why can't I seem to have a second child," I wondered to my husband that evening.
The next day I went to the hospital to have an emergency ultrasound done to determine the cause of the bleeding. I couldn't help but experience some déjà vu as I waited for the test. It had only been months since I had been here at this same place and received the news that my earlier conceived baby had died, failing to develop properly. In fact, I insisted that my husband not accompany me because his being there felt so much like a re-run of my first miscarriage experience.
The same doctor who discovered I had miscarried back in July would do my ultrasound. I was also a patient of the same obstetrician as before. Everything was the same as before except this time, my baby was still alive! I saw the baby on the screen, and its big heart beating strong. I felt eternally grateful and blessed. My obstetrician held my hand supportively and squeezed. A low-lying placenta caused the bleeding. All was fine and I was instructed to take it easy.
I left the hospital thrilled by the good news, but knowing I had a little less than nine long months to go. From then on, I considered each new day as progress and every weekend to be a victory.
On week 30 of my pregnancy, a few days before Independence Day, the doctor put me on bedrest due to pre-term labor contractions. In addition to the contractions, I had been contending with the heat of the summer, commuting difficulties and job pressures. I was prescribed anti-contraction medication every four hours around the clock.
To suddenly be totally uninvolved with the many projects I left in various stages of undoneness back at the office filled me with anxiety and left me seemingly with no purpose beyond bathing, dressing and feeding myself everyday. I didn't know what to do with myself. I spent my days watching television and trying to connect with anyone via email and parenting web sites who could understand how I felt. I realized that over the past several years, I had let my career assume too much importance in my life. Many times I tried to bust my way up the corporate ladder regardless of my health and my family. This bedrest, this gift of reflective time, was a good time to start change. Independence Day.
A brownish show at week 34 sent me to the emergency room where I was monitored for a few hours and found to be one centimeter dilated. I was sent home with instructions to restrict my activities even more and drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
By the end of August, my confinement was taking its toll. Tipping the scales at around 190 pounds, my hips and leg bones could barely support me. I began to become depressed, restless and extremely bored. Finally, during the night on August 31 and into the following day at week 39, I noticed that my contractions had begun to feel slightly painful, but they were irregular and intermittent. With every contraction, it seemed that I could feel myself being stretched more open.
After dinner on Tuesday, September 1, Allen and I decided to get some fresh air and took a short trip to a nearby recreational park. We sat on a park bench for about 45 minutes relishing the moment in the sunshine, watching boats and the planes overhead pass us by. Soon we would be the parents of not one, but two children. We knew that the arrival of our new baby would change the course of our lives and the dynamics of our entire family. We all were going to be born into a new beginning.
When we returned home at approximately 6:15 pm, we played a lengthy game of computer Monopoly. The catalyst of our relationship had been our common interest in computers so it seemed fitting that we celebrate our second entree into parenthood with a game of give and take like Monopoly. During the game, I timed my contractions for two hours. They averaged 10-11 minutes apart.
I called the doctor after we ended our Monopoly game at around 9:00 pm. After describing my contractions to my sleepy doctor who had delivered a baby only moments before, I was instructed to meet her at the hospital. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay at home a little while longer," I asked. "No," the doctor answered. "It doesn't matter anyway."
We joined the doctor at the hospital about an hour and a half later. She examined me and noted that I was four centimeters dilated. "Good! Only 6 centimeters to go," I thought. She asked me if I wanted to hurry things along and have an enema and my bag of waters broken. Sure, why not?
My obstetrician punctured my amniotic sac and soothing, warm fluid rushed out onto the bed pad. The enema gave me a sore bottom and cramps to reckon with until my system was rid of bowel waste. In a half an hour, I was cleaned out and cleaned up, wearing a fresh, crisp hospital gown. My husband and I walked the hall once or twice before I retired to bed and fetal monitoring. At one point, the baby's heart rate dropped sharply enough for the attending physician to order that I be attached to an oxygen mask. My nurse thought the doctor was jumping the gun a little in ordering the oxygen. She said a dip in the baby's heart rate usually corresponded to its descent into the birth canal.
When the contractions became uncomfortable, I requested an epidural. An IV was started and Pitocin was administered to keep the contractions productive. The epidural eliminated all sensations of pain. I felt numb and a slight itchy and tingly feeling all over. The painlessness was heaven! I was too excited to sleep, but I was able to comfortably doze for most of the night, requiring only one additional shot of medicine before the baby's birth.
Morning brought a most radiant sun. Still there was no pain, but I felt increasing pressure. My body was making the birth happen! My obstetrician and my favorite nurse encouraged me to push, but I didn't feel the urge. My obstetrician took a look and said the baby was presenting face up and could get stuck at some point. There was a possibility I might have to have a C-section. "Here they are jumping the gun again," said the nurse. "We'll get the baby to turn."
My husband rubbed my belly and the nurse talked to the baby, trying to convince it to turn. I felt another tremendous force and Allen and the nurses got my legs up. An older nurse encouraged me to push with purpose, none of that grunting business. I did push and I felt my stinging bottom stretch to the max as the baby was pulled out of me. The baby did not cry. A pediatrician was summoned right away and my tiny, brown clay-colored baby was whisked away to be encouraged to breathe. I saw them gingerly patting the bottom of her feet and hands while she simply and quietly just lay there. "Oh no," I thought. "You didn't come this far to leave me now did you?"
Finally, she cried out. She was cleaned up and wrapped up and given to my husband first. Vivienne Lovelace Steward, at around 20 inches long, weighed in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Allen placed Vivienne in my arms and took a photograph. The pregnancy was over. The placenta, which had fulfilled its purpose in nourishing Vivienne for all these months, was delivered and taken away. My obstetrician's work was done. I thanked her and squeezed her hand. I thanked my favorite nurse for attending to me and the baby beyond the end of her shift. I gazed down at Vivienne. Victory! We made it!