(Laura at six weeks on iPad. Karen at two weeks next to it.)
On Friday, October 19, 2007, at 3:00 a.m., I woke up and distinctly smelled amniotic fluid. Five minutes later, Keith was sleepily following a nurse pushing me in a wheel chair toward Labor and Delivery at Washington Regional Medical Center. By 7 a.m., it was obvious that I had a slow leak at the top of the uterus (where Laura's foot had been rubbing against my rib the whole pregnancy), but that I was NOT in labor. Unfortunately, you have to have the baby within 24 hours of any leaking amniotic fluid, otherwise, bad, bad, bad infections can ensue. So, they put me on pitocin, broke my water completely, and we began the long wait. I was 36 weeks and four days along in the pregnancy. By 3 p.m., I'd progressed to being dilated 8 cm, but then the problems began. My regular, increasing contractions fell apart. They started coming at irregular times, for irregular lengths, and at irregular consistencies. And I started shrinking. So, they upped my pitocin dose quite a bit. At 9:30 p.m., the doctor that'd been with me most of the day (Bradford), asked me to start pushing, even though I was only at 9 cm. He asked me to do this mainly because for the hour before, every time I had a contraction, Laura's heart was stopping. Even though the contractions were irregular, it was still very dangerous for Laura. So, I pushed and pushed for the doctor, and nothing was happening except for Laura's heart stopping. At 10 p.m., he said, "It's too dangerous, and you're not progressing anymore. It's time to do a cesarean. The baby is too stressed out." Keith and I quickly agreed to this, and we went off to OR. At 10:27 p.m., a beautiful 6 pound 5 ounce, 19.5 inch girl was born. We named her Laura Grace, of course. She was on oxygen for the first 18 hours of her life, but then was considered a "healthy baby," and was allowed to stay in my room with me from then on. I, however, didn't bounce back too well from having major abdominal surgery unexpectedly. When we left the hospital four days later, it was only because the insurance wouldn't cover me staying there anymore. Thankfully, I was fully recovered within three weeks, and our focus was on Laura, who had a bit of trouble with jaundice and gaining weight back. The first three weeks of her life weren't exactly pleasant for either of us (lots of visits to the diagnostic center to test her jaundice levels every day), but they went by quickly enough, and our life settled into a wonderful norm.
When I walked into triage on Monday at 10:30 p.m., I told the nurses I was sick of coming in every day, and couldn't I just stay this time. They laughed with me. I'd been up to the hospital for one reason or another, and had had labor stopped with medication, six times in the previous two weeks. And that wasn't even counting all of the times I just went to bed when I was having contractions. But Monday night was different. I'd called the doctor first, and asked her whether or not I should be concerned. You see, for the first time, I wasn't feeling the contractions. Except in my cesarean scar. Every time I had a contraction, all the normal places were unaffected, but the muscles around my scar pulled and felt like a hot knife was cutting them open. My doctor was understandably concerned and asked me to come in. Once again, they hooked me up to all of the monitors and said, "Go to sleep. We'll watch you through out the night, and the doctor will make a decision in the morning." That was typical. What was different this time was that they put me in a Labor and Delivery room instead of a triage room. A nurse did a cervix check several times throughout the night, and though I was dilating a little, it wasn't enough to declare me officially in labor. Until the doctor came in at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. She said I'd dilated another 2 cm since the last check by the nurse, and she watched my scar during a contraction. There was no doubt about it, I was at risk of a rupture. She said, "Let's go ahead and do the cesarean this morning. It'll be best." I was 36 weeks and four days along in the pregnancy. At 11:31 a.m., a beautiful 6 pound 8 ounce, 20.5 inch girl was born. We named her Karen Joyce, of course. With Laura, I recovered slowly while Laura bounced back. With Karen, I bounced back while Karen recovered slowly. We went the next week and a half with Karen in the hospital. I only stayed as long as I did because she was still there, although I was recovering twice as fast as I did after Laura. Karen's main problem was her lung development, just like with Laura. Except Laura is the miracle baby for premies born at 36.5 weeks. Karen, staying on oxygen for 10 days, is more the norm. Still, it was a bit stressful to have a baby in the hospital while you have to stay at home. However, she progressed well, and never had set backs, and she was finally released on Sunday, April 18th, just one day before Laura's 2.5 year birthday. Karen went home a very healthy baby with no more jaundice and no feeding problems. So, even though Karen spent more time in the hospital, she has fewer problems at home than Laura who was released quickly, but had lots of problems once we got home.
Despite all of the problems I had with both pregnancies, deliveries, and recoveries (for both me and the girls), I have to say that I love both of my girls very, very much, and would go through all of this again for them. Whether or not I'll go through all of it again for another child is yet to be seen.