Danielle's Birth Story
There is an old Yiddish proverb: We plan and God laughs.
When I was pregnant, we took a tour of Labor & Delivery as well as the postpartum units at Kaiser Woodland Hills. We talked about my birth plan—I wanted just my husband Adam in the delivery room, I wanted music playing, I had bought this really cute disposable nightgown to wear, I wanted my daughter wiped off before they put her on my chest, I wanted an epidural as soon as I set foot in the hospital. We had taken a Lamaze class and a Breastfeeding Basics class. My bag was packed. I had registered at the hospital. I figured I’d stop work the Friday before she was due.
That all changed on February 25.
I was 37 weeks pregnant and we went to the hospital for my non-stress test (I had been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes so it was standard procedure), as well as for my growth ultrasound. We were in radiology and the tech had our daughter on the screen.
Everything soon after was a blur.
“She looks a bit small. She’s measuring 4 pounds 8 ounces,” we were told. “Go up to Labor & Delivery, the doctor wants to talk to you.”
Small? I had come in for checks every other week and they had checked my fundal consistently—no one mentioned anything. I hadn’t been carrying very large—but I chalked it up to nausea throughout most of the pregnancy, and keeping my diet in check because of the GD.
So up we went to Labor & Delivery.
“Here’s your bracelet,” the nurse told me. “Please change into a gown and get into a bed.”
A bed? Why would I need to change and get into a bed to talk to the doctor?
“Your daughter is about 4 1/2 pounds and the placenta isn’t doing the job anymore,” the doctor told me. “We have to deliver you.”
I asked if this was a “go to work and come back and deliver” thing. I had a couple of meetings and Adam and I had driven separately to Kaiser. He said no… I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital without delivering.
Adam and I were stunned—we thought we had three weeks more to prepare. A baby! That day! We called my husband’s mother—who came to the hospital; as well as my mother who ended up flying in that night from New York where she had gone for a conference.
They took my vitals and said I could have the C-section right now or they could induce and see what happens.
I said, “Let’s see if induction does anything,” since I didn’t want to have surgery if I didn’t have to.
It didn’t work at encouraging the baby to come out. In fact, the contractions actually lowered the baby’s heart rate. And all I ended up with were some awful labor pains that confirmed my wanting an epidural was right.
I was told that we would have to have the C-section.
We were in the room at 5:55 p.m., where I was given a spinal while wearing an ugly hospital gown—not my cute one. Our daughter was delivered at 6:22 p.m.
Not only did I not get her on my chest—I couldn’t see anything, I could only hear her to know if she was OK. I cried when I heard her cry. She was then whisked away to the NICU. She wasn’t 4 pounds, 8 ounces. She was 3 pounds, 14 ounces—and 17.5 inches long.
While I was recovering from the surgery—and the drugs—my daughter was getting her vitals checked in the NICU. My husband and his parents had followed her there—so I was alone and (because they asked me to take out my contacts and take off my jewelry) I could barely see and I had no idea what time it was.
Once our daughter, we named her Danielle, was settled in at the NICU, and I had recovered enough—they wheeled me in to see her. I was able to put my hand through her incubator and feel her little hand. She was so small. My hand was bigger than her head, the bracelet around her ankle looked like a legwarmer. But she was beautiful. Outside of being small, she was perfect.
When the doctor told us she would need to spend the next 18-20 days in the NICU, receiving additional calories to help her grow, it broke my heart.
My father explained that, since she wasn’t supposed to arrive until March 18 anyway, this just meant she would finish out the last trimester in the NICU.
Since I had to recover from the C-section, and Danielle wasn’t able to leave the NICU, I sent my husband home to get rest and spent the first night in the hospital room alone—waking every three hours to pump (at least that part had worked out since breastfeeding was out the window—they didn’t want her to use her energy).
So it wasn’t the birth experience I planned for. But it did produce one beautiful baby—and one heck of a story.
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