One week ago today I had a doctor’s appointment. I was 37 weeks and 2 days along, and still had 15 days until my scheduled c-section.
As usual, my appointment meant a biophysical profile on baby to monitor growth and make sure she wasn’t showing any signs of outgrowing the placenta due to her single umbilical artery. The week before, everything had looked good.
This time, things looked different.
I don’t understand the numbers of what they measure, but when the ultrasound tech sent them to the perinatal specialist, his response was, “Time to deliver.”
That, in combination with my unusually high blood pressure reading, meant a big change of plans. And just like that, delivery was scheduled for the following morning at 7 a.m. Ready or not, we would meet this little baby in less than 24 hours.
I cried. (I like plans and I don’t particularly like it when they change suddenly.) I called my mom and my husband so they would know to make arrangements at work. I went home and packed a suitcase for my girls to stay at grandma’s house. I cried when I stood in their room and realized they wouldn’t come home again until everything was different. I cried because I love our life and change is scary. I cried because I was supposed to have two more weeks to savor these final moments of pregnancy.
I cried because 37 weeks is good but it’s still early. She deserved those two weeks to grow and prepare. I cried because I was scared she wouldn’t be okay if she stayed in. I cried because I was scared she wouldn’t be okay if she came out.
I stopped in my hurried packing to look out the window to the back yard. The flower bed below the window was in need of pruning. We had almost mowed it down in preparation for fall, but we hadn’t gotten to it yet. Big sedum bushes were toppling over, heavy with sun-faded blooms.
And each of the blooms was covered in monarch butterflies. I mean, completed loaded with them. There were probably fifty butterflies in the small patch beneath the window alone.
Butterflies are a symbol of transitions. Of transformations. The entire life cycle of a butterfly, from egg to adult is 30 days. Can you imagine your whole life changing like that, to the point where you are unrecognizable at the end of the transition? Here’s what I read about butterfly symbolism:
“Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly. She asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the chances of her environment and her body.
This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. Here the butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature – she asks us to recognize the same.”
In other words, there was my sign that all was as it should be.
The next morning we arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. At 6:52 they wheeled me back to the operating room, and at 7:13 a.m., three minutes before sunrise, Lennon Kate was born.
She weighed a whopping 5 lbs 8 oz and was 18 inches long. She came out screaming (just like her sister) and sporting a full head of dark hair (not at all like her sisters). It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows my first two daughters that this girl has fire in her. She will hold her own in this lively group just fine.
She was (and is) perfect. And for me, it was my smoothest c-section yet. Even now, a week later, I’m not having any pain and am moving around just fine, though still being cautious. I never even picked up my prescription for pain medicine.
In many ways, it was a perfect experience. However, on Monday, the day we were supposed to be heading home, we had the car loaded and were waiting for final approval from the pediatrician to be released when we got word that her bilirubin levels were high. Not uncommon for a baby born at 37 weeks. But it meant a night in the NICU under the bili lights.
Let me tell you: I had no concept at all of how hard it is to have a baby in the NICU until I was there. And keep in mind–I was there with an otherwise healthy baby with a simple complication that had a relatively easy solution. But still. Watching your tiny newborn be poked and hooked up to monitors and put inside a box with no clothes on except a diaper and a large eye mask for twelve hours while all you can do is stand there and hold her tiny hand through a hole in the box SUCKS. It is one of the single most emotionally exhausting experiences of my entire life.
My husband and I took shifts standing by her side for the whole night. Because every instinct in my body was to stay with this tiny human that was now ours to love and care for, regardless of how amazing the nurses were. I’ve never been so happy to see 6 a.m. in my life.
And with the morning labs came good news. Her levels were low enough to go home!
But now her platelet count was done.
Everything else had been fine for her entire stay. How could this be happening now? But it was. And it meant we weren’t leaving.
The pediatrician would normally have kept us another night and rechecked levels in 24 hours. But by then I was desperate. I wanted to be home with my other kids. My mama instinct was telling me that there was nothing to worry about–that this was a fluke. (That doesn’t happen very often–normally I err on the side of worrying.) And I didn’t know if I could handle another night in that room. She saw my desperation and agreed to recheck levels later that afternoon.
So we spent the rest of the day waiting. It was better because at least I could snuggle my baby, who was officially free of the light box. But worry over what the numbers might bring that afternoon left a shadow on the day.
Another blood draw. And then a blood redraw because of “clumping” in the sample. And finally the news. Her platelets were back up in the normal range. After five days in the hospital, we were going home.
That was two days ago. We’ve spent two days at home resting and reconnecting with our other littles and adjusting to life as outnumbered parents.
And let me tell you–I love this life.
One week ago, nine months ago, I was terrified to let go of the life we had. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.