I was dilated 7 cm at my weekly appointment that Tuesday afternoon. My doctor sent me straight to the hospital. Her last words to me were "You'll have this baby by 5 pm." Well, whatever plans she had that evening were cancelled as I labored through the night and into the wee hours of the morning. You see, late in the afternoon, a nurse mistakenly reported that my water broke. With that fact recorded in my chart, no one could figure out why I wasn't dilating past 9 cm. I was miserable. No food, no drink, no baby. The nurses would wake the doctor every hour or so but there was never any progress. Finally around 4 am, the doctor checks again and says, "I think I feel something in front of the baby's head. Like the bag of water. Let me see." And just like that, with the swipe of a perfectly manicured finger, she punctured it and everyone in the room stared at the fluid gushing out as if they'd never seen this happen before. Ten hours after it "broke" the first time, contractions started. Liam was born an hour and a half later after tortuous pushing, the threat of a C-section and the suction of a small vacuum.
He made a terrifying transition into the world, arriving with an Apgar of 2. They wouldn't let me hold or even see him. It was hours before I was allowed in the NICU. My 10 lb, 3 oz baby was three times the size of all the other babies in those tiny isolettes. On my first visit, I asked the nurse why he was so red. She said, "I don't know, everyone's skin is different." I've always heard how nice NICU nurses are; apparently they don't work at this particular hospital. The only way I could get permission to hold my baby was to insist on nursing him exclusively. Once the nurses heard that this was my plan (which it really wasn't until he was admitted to the NICU) they grudgingly let me visit often with the exception of shift changes.
Nursing or not, I was discharged after 48 hours. At 9 pm, I returned to my empty house and spent a sleepless night worrying about my two sons. Henry was well cared for by a dear friend but who was holding and feeding Liam? The hospital was 30 minutes away when the roads were clear and this night it was snowing pretty hard. Earlier, as I left the hospital, a nurse said to me, "remember to pump often at home but if this storm gets much worse the power will probably go out." So now I was leaving my newborn with strangers AND in the dark? What a long, long night. Since I wasn't supposed to be driving, I had no choice but to stay home and count the hours until my neighbor could drive me back to the hospital in the morning.
The neonatologist finally agreed to let me take Liam home. He looked quite jaundiced to me but they said his numbers were just high average. The nurse said that she would need at least an hour to complete the discharge paperwork, maybe more. When she returned to Liam's cubicle, she looked in the bassinet and exclaimed, "WHERE'S THE BABY?" "Right here," I said calmly, pointing to his car seat. Liam was bundled and buckled in. We were going home.
So forgive me if I stare at his face across the dinner table a few seconds too long tonight. Forgive me if I marvel at his wide vocabulary and his perfect vision. Liam has defied all the odds since the day he was conceived but he's not an easy child. He's stubborn and willful.