Normal is a state of mind. On Tuesday, I went to speak on a panel about the NICU and hospital stays. The meeting was actually on Wednesday, so mommy-brain spent the remainder of the week following me around laughing.
As the muppets’ first birthday races toward us, our days in the NICU seem to fade further into the past. But the roller coaster of emotions is something that isn’t going to ever fully leave me.
Lest you begin to think the weight of the world has got me down (these recent rabbit hole posts aren’t the most uplifting), I am currently reliving my misadventures through wonderland because they are nothing more than a hazy blur in my mind.
Earth Day 2010 was the last day I was a “normal” high risk twin pregnancy. It was a year ago today that I first became acquainted with the Labor and Delivery Unit at Kaiser Hospital.
This stint was by far the most terrifying to me. I had no idea why I was on lockdown or what was going to happen next. I tried to keep my posts upbeat – searching for the humor in the situation. Looking back, I’m glad I did, since I can see some of it inherently buried within my memories. But at the time, I was persistently haunted by nightmares of empty cribs.
I started that fateful day thinking it would be a 45 minute in-and-out appointment. Jon didn’t even accompany me. But an hour later, I was wandering through the halls, fumbling with my cell phone to call my boss and my husband. I was annoyed I would be missing a full day of work and mumbled noncommittal assurances to Jon that he could come find me, or not.
By the end of the day, I’d called my boss to let her know I would be out the full week. I was reclined in a more comfortable bed frantically trying to sort through my outstanding projects. I assumed I’d return home the following day and made plans for four months of working from home. I kind of liked the idea of moving from a beige cubical to a professionally down-fluffed resting chamber.
Two days later (still in the hospital) Dr. Meyer, the perinatologist on duty came in to perform the Releasable Ultrasound. “And if it’s the same as it was before, we can go home, right?”
“Sounds like a great plan to me,” Dr. Meyer agreed.
Six hours later, I was prepping for surgery. It wasn’t the same as before; it was getting worse. Destroy (Baby A), was following the light. I chattered obnoxiously throughout the hour long procedure – trying to trick reassurances out of the medical personnel. But the best they’d give me was the notion that the surgery had great results with singletons and still unproven with multiples.
I held my hands on my stomach, trying to feel for the tiny little kicks from the two baby boys getting ready for the ride of their lives. “Unproven with multiples.” Unhelpful.
The next day I felt the rhythmic cramping of my stomach. There was no pain, but I knew something was wrong. Calmly, I let my nurse know I thought I was having contractions. She hooked me up to the monitors I would eventually learn were the minor leagues of monitor watching and willing.
After the requisite hour she examined the results tape, told me she was going to alert a doctor. An hour later she came back to let me know the doctors were making their way through laboring patients and should be in to check on me shortly. I smiled tiredly. But hey – better those other full term women laboring instead of me!
By this time my mom, Jon and I had abandoned our UNO game (which I had spent the past several hours resolutely losing) and were gathering around the contraction monitor as though it was the greatest innovation in entertainment technology since the advent of color TV.
An older nurse (who I had never seen before) purposefully entered the room. She eyed the results tape through large coke-bottle eyeglasses that seemed to magnify her suspicious panicked eyes. Suddenly, she ripped the paper from the machine, crying, “WE’VE GOT TO FIND A DOCTOR!” as she ran from the room.
In an instant I was being bundled up and wheeled back to the Labor and Delivery unit for an emergency exam. In full physical and psychological meltdown, I sobbed atop my wheely bed as we rolled across the until. GrammaJ followed tearfully behind me repeating, “I’m so sorry, Tricia. I’m so sorry.”
The terrified WE’VE GOT TO FIND A DOCTOR cries rang in my head, in stark contrast to the happy laughter and smiles of full-term mothers-to-be waddling down the halls trying to encourage their own labors.
“I can’t lose them. I can’t!” I exclaimed to anyone within earshot. “I’m attached. I love them.”
During the circus, my friend Amber was en route to the hospital for what had initially been planned as a routine visit. Well – routine-ish. She was planning to come with contraband ice cream and a smuggled (but therapy-certified) six-pound Westie dog named Jack.
As I hyperventilated and melted down in a spectacularly dramatic fashion, Jon left my room to let Amber know there had been a change of plans. She assured and reassured him that she understood and would leave. Jon continued to run interference between me (his manic wife) and the nurses and doctors who weren’t quite sure what to do with me (other than roll their eyes at each other as they waited for me to calm down).
Finally, Jon stalked back out to the hallway where Amber and Jack had tried to make themselves as unobtrusive as possible. Amber again said she’d return another day.
“She’s insisting on seeing the dog.” Jon muttered through clenched teeth. (What can I say? Dogs make me happy.)
This first week of what was quickly becoming my new normal was by far the most terrifying. It was the unknown, the gentle shake of the doctors head that my babies were not yet viable. Even as I write this, I can feel the constricting air of the hospital rooms and the weight of my pregnant body shuffling across the cold tile floor toward the bathroom, where I would catch a glimpse of my stringy unkempt hair falling across my tear-streaked face.
A year has passed since my traumatic crash course into med/nursing school. I just walked across the cool tile floor toward my bathroom where I peeked at my stringy unkempt hair falling across my face. But this year, there is no fear – just an apparent aversion to pureed wild turkey and peas.