It is pretty crazy to be sitting at home with a baby girl asleep a few feet away from me considering that, as of Thursday night, the most exciting plan I had for the weekend was to rent a video. Hints of the unexpected direction things were to take came on Thursday night when Heather complained of a bad headache. Neither of us thought too much of this initially, but when Heather woke the next morning with tenderness in her stomach as well as the headache, we called Dr. Risky’s office. They told us to to go Labor & Delivery to make sure everything was okay. Not exactly enthused about this, we nonetheless headed out the door while repeating “Better safe than sorry.” On the drive over we had this conversation:
HEATHER: “You think we’re overreacting by going to Labor & Delivery?”
MIKE: “Not if you’re going into labor.”
HEATHER: “You think I’m going into labor?”
MIKE: “I don’t know. Do you?”
HEATHER: “I don’t know. Maybe.”
MIKE: “Maybe?! You think you might be going into labor?!”
Heather shrugged, then looked over at me, suddenly nervous.
HEATHER: “Dude. What if I AM going into labor?”
Upon arriving at the hospital we decided to document things with “before” photos of ourselves just in case this was indeed Annie’s big day:
Minutes later Heather was examined by an O.B. Resident who, after performing an ultrasound, went off to call Dr. Risky and discuss the situation. We waited nervously until the Resident popped her head back into the room and said, “What do you think of maybe having a baby today?” Heather and I exchanged glances as the Resident explained that, considering the high risk nature of the pregnancy and Heather’s prior c-section, it would be best to go ahead and have the c-section now instead of waiting and risking further complications. After discussing the options we agreed this was the best plan – especially since, because Heather had skipped her blood thinner shot the night before due to her headache, she wouldn’t have to be put under for the operation. The Resident told us Dr. Risky would arrive and perform the c-section within the next hour or two (once blood tests confirmed that the blood thinners had indeed left her system)!
We whipped out our cell phones. Heather called her parents in Ventura County who immediately hurried down while I reached mine at their home in the San Francisco Bay Area as they readied to go to dinner to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. They quickly canceled their reservation and began the seven hour trip to Los Angeles.
The minutes were ticking away as a pair of great nurses, Helen and Staci (a former sorority sister of Heather’s who started her shift early to be there), prepared Heather for surgery. Soon Heather’s cousin, “Tia Leah,” arrived as Heather reclined on the hospital bed.
That’s when things got scary…
Heather, after being given a shot of Terbutaline and hooked to an I.V., mentioned she felt strange. Nurse Helen told her to relax and close her eyes. Instead of closing her eyes, however, Heather just stared back at her.
“Go ahead,” Nurse Helen repeated. “Just close your eyes.”
Again, Heather just stared back at Helen with a blank visage. I stepped toward Heather, concerned, and called out her name. No response. Worried, I repeated Heather’s name again and again with rising intensity, but still she just stared. Nurse Helen quickly told Leah to push the emergency button. As Leah hurried to push the button, Heather’s head rolled to the side and she emitted a series of guttural noises.
Doctors and nurses burst into the room with the crash cart and tended to Heather as Leah and I looked on, frightened. A doctor soon said that Heather’s blood pressure was alarmingly low – when they could get a reading it was 70/40 - as the team tried to bring it back up. For frighteningly long moments they had no luck until they gave her a shot of Ephedrine and the life returned to her eyes. The anesthesiologist told us that Heather’d had a vasovagel episode, and because of Heather’s drop in blood pressure – and its effect on Annie’s blood pressure and heart rate – they needed to take her to the operating room and get the baby out now. Unfortunately, because they didn’t have time to wait for the results from Heather’s blood test, they would have to put Heather to sleep with a general anesthesia for the operation. This meant Heather would be unconscious during our daughter’s birth, and I would have to wait in a different room while it all happened. This was one of our biggest worries about taking the blood thinners – that we might miss our baby’s birth if Heather went into labor before she stopped the shots in time – and here it was happening. I was disappointed, but considering the scary nature of things I agreed as I just wanted Heather and the baby be okay. Heather was quickly wheeled out of the room leaving Leah and me, stunned.
Upon arriving in the operating room Heather told Dr. Risky how much she didn’t want to be put under for Annie’s birth, and luckily, Dr. Risky had her own concerns about putting her under for medical reasons. After a pow-wow with the anesthesiologist, Dr. Risky convinced him to wait a little longer for the blood test results. He agreed, and when the results came they showed that the blood thinners had indeed left Heather’s system.
A nurse soon returned to the room Leah and I were in, and told us (as well as Heather’s parents and aunt who had by then arrived) that Heather was worried about me and wanted me to know all was okay. She also told me that they wouldn’t be putting Heather under after all and I could be in the room! I hurriedly dressed in scrubs and made my way to the O.R.
The operation began and Heather and I huddled together behind the curtain, holding hands and fighting tears. More emotions than I could describe swirled in our heads. It was impossible not to think of Maddie, as Heather and I had waited behind a very similar curtain on her birth day. That day all we cared about was hearing Maddie cry upon coming out, because that would mean her lungs were healthy enough to do so. Maddie came out crying, and so did Annie. The moments were shockingly similar…seeing Heather cry tears of joy upon hearing her daughters’ cries, and me staring in shock at their shocks of black hair just like their daddy’s.
Annie was taken to a table by the nurses so they could clean her up, and I quickly took photos of her first moments of life. I then cut her umbilical chord, took her in my arms, and carried her over to her mother for our first moment as a family. It was very bittersweet to be able to have this moment with Annie, because Maddie had been rushed from the O.R. to the NICU before Heather could do anything more than kiss her hat. This time we made the most of it:
I soon went to the waiting room to show the photos of Annie’s birth to our family, then retreated to a recovery room where Heather waited with Annie. We texted photos of Annie to Uncle Kyle and Aunt Monica and Uncle Sheridan, then watched as Nurse Staci gave Annie her first bath. Annie absolutely LOVED getting her hair washed. I have a feeling she will be a HUGE fan of the hair salon in a few years. (My wallet sighs.)
Upon moving to our postpartum room Heather, Annie and myself were greeted by some of our friends, and everyone took turns holding the Amazing Annabel and talking about how much she looked like her sister.
As Annie’s Birth Day drew to a close, I checked Twitter and this blog, and told Heather about all the love the Internet was sending our little one’s way. We were both so touched.
My parents finally arrived after making the long trek from San Francisco and met their granddaughter for the first time. They told us Annie was “the best anniversary gift they could have been given.”
As midnight struck I kissed my daughter on the head and whispered, “Welcome to the world, Annabel. Welcome to the world.”