early days – part two

Four days before my scheduled cesarean in Boston, Calvin decided to come early. I woke up at 1:00 in the morning and, though I did not feel contractions, I knew my water had broken. It was February and an ice storm was wreaking its havoc. Michael and I drove carefully down the deserted, icy streets to our local hospital. After several conflicting tests they confirmed that Calvin was indeed on his way into the world. It was week 34.

We desperately needed to get to Boston, but because of the weather all of the Medevac helicopters had been grounded. Our local hospital did not have a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), so they loaded me into an ambulance and we headed south to the Maine Medical Center.

The complicated and risky situation with Calvin made me fearful of having him delivered in Maine. I was convinced that they weren’t equipped to handle the complex problems that might arise. Boston, they told us, was not an option via ambulance because of the danger of going into hard labor en route. There was no alternative but to have Calvin delivered right where I was.

Unfortunately, donor platelets were not available. Thus, I endured a two-hour pheresis; my blood was removed, put through a centrifuge to extract my platelets then returned to my body. My platelets would be available to Calvin after birth in case he had a low count. After the pheresis was complete I had too few platelets to receive an epidural, which meant I had to undergo the cesarean given general anesthesia. Since I would be unconscious the surgeon refused to allow Michael to accompany me. Sadly, neither Michael nor I would witness the birth of our only child.

I kissed Michael goodbye and left him alone in the room as they wheeled me to the cold O.R. and prepared me for surgery. As I rolled down the stark hall it was eerie to wonder if I would ever wake up and see his face again.

Some time later one of the doctors laid our tiny swaddled babe in Michael’s arms. He was scared to be holding Calvin, who was not quite five pounds and in a fragile state. Michael wasn’t sure if Calvin was breathing well so before long they whisked our newborn preemie to the NICU. Thankfully, Calvin had ample platelets, though the three of us were to face a myriad of other serious problems in the days and weeks to follow.

photo by Michael Kolster

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