The night my water broke, an ice storm blew through Maine. Ice caked windows and froze shut doors. It sheathed leaves and needles and burdened branches. It glazed streets and sidewalks, treacherously.

I was only thirty-four weeks along in my pregnancy. A fortnight earlier, a bombshell had been dropped by a doctor who had shocked us with the news that my fetus had a brain malformation. Specialists in Boston, worried that a vaginal birth would stress our unborn child further, had arranged for a scheduled C-section to be performed at week thirty-five. Though I didn't feel any contractions, I quickly grabbed a few essentials and donned my down parka, zipping it up tightly over my basketball-sized belly. Michael kicked open the mudroom door which was encased in frozen rain, and we made our way, driving on desolate roads to our local hospital wondering how, in my condition, we'd get to Boston.

When the on-call obstetrician arrived at the hospital, we explained our predicament—our fetus' enlarged ventricles, his possible brain bleeds, the scheduled 35-week cesarean in Boston aside a team of pediatric neurologists and neurosurgeons, plus donor platelets readied if our newborn needed them. Unable to accommodate our serious case, she made arrangements for me to be transferred by ambulance to Maine Medical center in Portland. The ice storm had made it impossible for us to get to Boston; Medivac helicopters had been grounded.

Once at Maine Med, we explained our situation to another doctor, and a game plan was made. Without blood bank donor platelets in the case our fetus—who we had already named Calvin—suffered another brain bleed, I'd have to undergo a pheresis. In other words, I would be the platelet donor for my son if need be. Actively contracting, albeit subtly, I had to sit upright and motionless on a hospital bed for nearly an hour while my blood was syphoned, put through a centrifuge to extract its platelets, then pumped back into me. The pheresis left me with too few clotting platelets to safely undergo an anesthetic epidural without risking a spinal column bleed. Instead, I had to go under general anesthesia to endure the cesarean. As a result, despite my pleading, the obstetrician would not allow Michael in the operating room, which meant neither of us could witness the birth of our fragile son.

Sorrow and worry wrenched my heart. Everything Michael and I had hoped for, wished for and expected of our child's birth had vanished in a blink. Michael wouldn't hold my hand and offer reassuring words. We wouldn't hear our baby's first cries, wouldn't marvel at the sight of our beloved newborn. I would not clutch my babe to my breast, nor would Michael kiss my forehead as I looked into the loving eyes of a new father.

Instead, my body would become void of all senses. Neither of us would be participant, witness nor advocate. No photos, no videos, no memories would exist of the moment our son was born. I'd be left instead with the memory of kissing Michael goodbye and holding his hand as long as I could until we were finally broken apart. Of seeing him standing alone in an antiseptic room as a white-clad mob wheeled me under a tunnel of lights. Of the fear that I might never emerge from the anesthesia to see Michael's face again. Of perhaps never seeing my wee child alive and breathing.

Photo by Michael Kolster

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Christy, I don't think I ever heard this story before....My innards writhe following what happened, and my heart goes out to you for such an enormous blow...such disappointment...such anxiety. I am so very sorry!
    (Your writing communicates this so well!! I am glad you are writing...)

    Life can be so capricious, and at times so hard! Bless you!