Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day 2013

New Year's Day will never be the same. Gone are lists of how I'll improve myself or what I'll do differently. Gone are lazy days of reading books I bought with Christmas money. Gone are all the other associations I have with a day that has always been a holiday for me.

For the rest of my life, it will be the day before M's birthday, the day we raced across three states from one hospital to another, outrunning the inevitability of preeclampsia. M would come early, and she would come soon. The question was only: how soon?

I have always been a spiritual person, and I have always believed in a higher being. It's a very personal part of my life, and I was raised to make my own decisions in the religion department and to only share them with others when invited to do so. I think very much about making purposeful decisions, ones that either make me a better person or give happiness to those around me. But, I don't pray much in a formal sense, and sometimes when I do, I feel a little guilty, like I'm daring to ask for more when I've already been given so much.

Throughout my life, I've had significant moments and amazing coincidences that were more than coincidences. I've had moments of clarity when I felt pushed forward in a direction, and I've felt consoled in dark times when I reached for something more profound than any person could give me. I've begged for my life, and I've begged for the lives of my children. I've sent request after request for the safe travel of friends and family, but I have only once in my life asked my God for a very specific request. I have only once asked my friends and family to pray for that one request.

And it was answered on New Year's Day 2013.

While on vacation in Texas last December, I took my blood pressure because I wasn't feeling well, and I knew as soon as I saw the results what it meant. The question was not whether M would come early, as J had, but how early. So, during the 36 hours I was hospitalized in Texas, I did not ask to carry M full-term. And I did not ask for my preeclampsia to be reversed because it didn't feel right asking for something I didn't feel could be changed.

My simple prayer request was that I somehow make it back to my hospital at home. The one 8 hours away. The one where J lived for 91 days. The one where we knew all the doctors and nurses who would care for M. The one where my high risk doctors had privileges. The one 30 minutes from our home. The one that would keep our family intact during M's NICU stay.

Reclined on my left side in the hospital, I marveled at the pickle I was in. How would I survive the stress of the NICU with my husband and son away from me? How would my husband work knowing M and I were several states away? How would my son manage without the mother who had been his sole caregiver for two years?

The obstetrician on call was so kind about our situation. He and the nurses had discussed my dilemma throughout the day, he told me. But, New Year's Eve was a stormy night, and my condition was no better. He simply could not let me go home. As he said the words, I knew he was right. He told me he'd schedule me for a C-section on January 2, assuming I was stable until then, so that the steroid shots for M's lungs had time to mature them for her premature delivery. Then, he told me goodbye and Happy New Year.

My husband and I were awake as one year rolled into the next, he on his cot and me in my hospital bed. I told him that I only had one request, other than a general one for my health and for M's: I just wanted to find some way to get home to a familiar NICU, to a hospital where things would be a little easier for us.

It didn't look good.

The next morning, as I was eating breakfast, the new doctor on call strolled in. He was handsome with dark hair, and he smiled brightly at me, as he pulled a chair to my beside. 

"How do you feel this morning, " he asked. Was this a trick question? 

"Pretty good, all things considered," I told him. 

"Do you feel like going home today," he asked. And then he smiled. I'm sure my expression must have been amusing, because I was in shock.

"You're stable. For today. I don't know when you'll have this baby, but it won't be today. You have a window to get home, and I'd like to see you go," the doctor told me.

Whether or not you're the praying kind. Whatever God you do or don't believe in. Sometimes life is miraculous, when you are handed just the one exact gift you've requested. Not more and not less. Just exactly, exactly what you've hoped for.

The doctor told me he'd woken up thinking about me, that he'd put himself in our shoes. He'd thought about what he would have wanted for his wife, for his family. He'd gone against conventional wisdom, against all logic, against all the norms about what you do with a pregnant woman suffering from severe preeclampsia who must have a C-section within a few days in order to save her life and her baby's life. He did exactly the opposite of what he was trained to do. He thought with his heart, and he did what felt right for our situation.

He let me go home. He released me, knowing that he was responsible for that decision. And with his decision, the prayer I had said over and over again--more forcefully and with more clarity than I have ever allowed myself to pray before--was answered. My one request honored.

My husband was stunned too. He was amazed, because like me, he hates to ask for help, even for help from above. We'll ask for help for others, but it feels greedy to do it for ourselves. But, we had begged for help, for ourselves and for our children. And we were in awe of the response we'd gotten.

We still are, really.

It was crazy what we did, leaving the hospital in a rush. I've never been discharged so quickly. We were off to the races, me reclined on my left side in the front seat of the car. Our toddler hardly asked a question, barely needed us to stop to feed him. Everyone was in cooperation to get home fast. Every time we stopped at a rest area for me to use the bathroom, I wondered at the world going on around us. Didn't they know we were in a mad rush home? Didn't they know I was very sick? Of course not. I didn't even look sick.

And when we pulled up to the hospital, to the entrance that had become so familiar during the months we were visiting my son, I was relieved. So relieved. Because I'd been given the chance to do it all over again with another tiny baby in a place where I was comfortable.

So, New Year's Day will never again be just a quiet day to welcome another year. My mind will always go to what we were doing during the first hours of 2013.

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