Posted by: angelnorman | November 12, 2010

my birthing story, 6 years later

I never wrote down my birthing story like a good mother might, and thusly, I have forgotten a lot of the details from November 12, 2004.  Every blog I read that’s written by someone who has a baby has included, at some point, a birthing story.  I’m going to try to share what I remember with you today, on my Noodle’s 6th birthday, about November 11th and 12, 2004.

I was working as a receptionist for a doctor’s office that closed early on Thursdays. My 27 week check-up was scheduled for Thursday, Nov.11, and instead of coming in at 9 AM and then turning around to leave at 11:00 to make my 11:15 appointment, I took the whole morning off. I was pretty sure that my co-workers hated me for it, because my morning sickness in the previous 7 months and all my whining about it had made them a bit standoffish, really. Or maybe that was imagined because I felt like a burden most days. Heck, I felt like that about everyone– no one understood me. Not even Mike. Not even my mom. Everyone got on my nerves, you know. Always fawning over me like I was fragile physically when really, it was my mind that was uneasy.

It was just me and my baby against the world. Me and my Nicholas.

I had the most miserable pregnancy, I’m not going to lie. I remember two days of my pregnancy that were great: one- the day I found out that there was indeed a little peanut-sized baby in my uterus after an entire weekend of wondering why they hadn’t found him in the first ultrasound, and two- the day I learned I was having a boy. All the other days sucked hardcore in some way. Either I was throwing up or I was crying, and some days I did both. At the same time. Most of the time I cried when I was in the tub, trying to relax after a day of mentally stressful work, and missing my Granny so much I could die. She died when I was three months pregnant. One of the last things we ever talked about was the baby. “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” she asked me. I said I did not. “Which one do you want?”  She asked again. “A boy,” I answered with a smile. “I want a little boy.” She seemed to approve, because she returned my smile and we changed the subject.

She never got a chance to know that I indeed had a little boy.

Mike took me to breakfast, as he had taken off work too to accompany me at the appointment. It was kind of a big deal, see, and I was excited. This particular appointment was the appointment where we were to schedule out our other appointments– my OB wanted to see me more often than once a month from that day on! It meant for me that we were getting closer and closer to my due date. Mike had to be there to schedule these so that he could choose days to join me and ask off for them. We ate at Cracker Barrel, I’ll never forget that. I had the Momma’s Pancake Breakfast; he had french toast. We talked mostly about how excited we were for our baby shower on Saturday, the 13th. We couldn’t wait to get all the goodies for the nursery, especially since we were in the process of buying a house.

I went in and sat in the chair to have my BP taken. The look on Melissa, my favorite nurse’s face, was one of concern. “Hm,” she said. “I think I should try the other arm.”

So she did. And then when that didn’t satisfy her, she put me in a room, had me lie down for 10 minutes, and came to re-check me. She re-checked me while I was lying down on my side, another reading that proved to not satisfy.

Mike asked, “Is there a problem?” I don’t know if anyone ever directly answered him. I felt ill. They listened for the baby’s heartbeat; it was fine. They checked my blood pressure again.

Dr. Wise came in and told us that she recommended we go to Baptist Hospital for observation. She was worried about my BP being so high, but she never did give us a number. I think the paper I saw said 160 as the top number. I knew it was high, but I was feeling just fine. I had no headache, no weird feelings. In fact, I probably felt better that day than I had the entire pregnancy.

We drove over to Baptist, which sadly, is across the street, but we didn’t know how long we would be there or if we should grab our car, so we just drove. Once parked, we took our Dr’s orders into the hospital, straight up to Labor and Delivery, and got ourselves checked in. I called my mom. “Don’t panic,” I said. “But I’m going into the hospital for observation. My blood pressure is high.” She came right away, not panicked but concerned.

They gave me a room, had me put on a gown, and got me comfortable. They wouldn’t let me eat or drink anything. My stepmother-in-law arrived with her best friend. She had brought me pajamas– super big, comfy ones (Gilligan & O’Malley, which has become my all time favorite brand of pajamas, underwear, and bras! Go Target! Anyways…) The nurse came in to put in a catheter. The ladies at the end of the bed, all family except for Dawn, seemed content to stay in the room. “I need them out,” I whispered to the nurse, and she made it happen.

When she had cleared the room, I said to her, “I didn’t shave. You know, there.”

She assured me that it was no big deal. In went the catheter. I hate that feeling, and hope I never ever need one again. I was also put on a magnesium drip to keep me from developing any further blood pressure spikes and also to prevent me from having a seizure or a stroke. High blood pressure during pregnancy is very, very serious.

Some time later, we were taken to an ultrasound room. “We want to get a picture of the baby.” The technician looked and pushed on my stomach, trying to get Nicholas to move around. Once she had her image, she asked to be excused and left the room. We waited in there for 20 minutes roughly, until Dr. Wise herself opened the door. She sat down and asked me to sit up and get comfortable.

“We need to take the baby,” she said.

“Take the baby?” I repeated, only clearly not understanding.

She went on to explain that Nicholas looked as though he was no longer thriving in my womb. He was thinner than he should be for his gestational age, and she wasn’t sure how long he could go on with me having high blood pressure. I remember her talk, talk, talking… but I have no idea now what she said. She may have said I had pre-eclampsia, but all I remember her syaing was “pregnancy-induced hypertension” and “we need to get him out”. I felt myself shaking on the edge of the table. A part of me wanted this to be a bad dream, but the bigger part of me, the logical/reasonable me,  said nothing until she had stopped talking. Then I asked, “What are his chances of survival if we take him out?”

Mike looked at me funny. He told me much later that it had made him angry to hear me say it like that, as he hadn’t even entertained the thought of losing our child and here I was asking for statistics about his survival. She told us that he had an 85% chance of making it just fine, but that there would be some complications. “He will probably be in the NICU- the neonatal intensive care unit- for at least 6 weeks. His lungs won’t be fully developed at 7 months. He won’t cry. He will need to be on a ventilator.”

Later on, she also warned us that we would not be able to see him before they took him to the NICU. “He’s in good hands with the neonatal team here. Please don’t worry.”

Don’t worry. Right. I wanted to shout at her. “Lady, I started worrying for my child the moment I learned he was inside of me. I worried that I would miscarry, that he would be stillbirth, that I would be a bad mother. I worried about everything, that he’d grow up and hate me, that I would outlive him. I have worried every day for 7.5 months about this baby so you telling me to not worry about him being born 2 months early is downright stupid!”

I don’t remember Thursday night or Friday morning. I was in a big birthing room, one of those all-in-one places with a special alcove where you could keep your baby in your room. I remember looking at that alcove a lot, and thinking how unfair it was that I wouldn’t get to keep my baby in my room. Reconciling what was happening with my “birthing plan” was very hard on me. I wouldn’t get to listen to music. I wouldn’t get to go drug-free. I was scheduled for a c-section on Friday at 7 pm. I spent the whole day in and out of sleep, in and out of depression. I know my family was coming and going- my mom, my sister. Even Michelle, my best friend, was there, taking pictures and trying to document everything. The only thing I remember vividly about the hours before birth was getting the epidural and staring at a picture of my Granny that someone had taped to the bottom of  my TV.

The epidural was not pleasant. I wanted a natural birth, not one with drugs! But since I was having a c-section, I had no option. I sat on the edge of the bed and the anesthesiologist said, “You shouldn’t feel this at all,” as he stuck the needle into my spine. I heard it pop through my skin, and I jumped, but not because I felt anything. Both the nurses and the anesthesiologist started freaking out. “Are you alright? Can you move your legs? Your toes?” They tested all my extremities before I admitted that the noise had just grossed me out. They didn’t look very happy with me.

I also remember when Courtney put the Smashing Pumpkins’ CD of “Beautiful” in the CD player and turned it on for me when I asked her to. I was determined to hear some music, dammit, and “Beautiful” was a song I had sung to Nicholas almost every day since learning he was growing inside of me. It didn’t last though. As soon as it started playing, I burst into tears. My mom rushed to turn it off. Courtney stared at me like I was a crazy person. “She doesn’t need that right now,” Moma said, as if scolding Courtney for listening to me. Courtney protested that I had told her to do it.

“What if he dies?” I yelled. “What if my baby dies?!”

At 7 pm, they wheeled me to the OR. A nurse leaned over me with a syringe and said, “I’m going to do something to make your blood pressure more normal.” She put something into my IV and said, “Tell me if you feel anything.”

Within two seconds, I felt sick to my stomach. “I feel…” I began, trying not to hurl. “Going to throw up!” She turned a dial and suddenly, I was better. To this day, I’m not sure what that was about.

The next thing I remember was them asking me to switch from the birthing bed to the operating table. I could not move my legs, and I was angry that they had just assumed I would be able to handle this on my own. I looked for Mike, but he was still “scrubbing up”. The nurse looked at me. He asked what was wrong, why I wasn’t moving. “I can’t!” I snapped. “This stupid medicine has made me not able to feel my legs at all!”

He laughed. “That’s good. That means it’s working.”

Several nurses had to help me over to the table, which was okay because there were a ton of nurses present. There were at least 4 neonatal nurses, and 4 nurses to assist my doctor for the c-section. It felt like I had a huge audience. Suddenly Mike was beside me. We smiled at each other, and he grabbed my hand. My doctor started the procedure. I don’t remember that much about it, except for Dr. Wise saying I was long-waisted and that she wished she had a long waist like mine. Then suddenly, she says, “Okay, I have my hands on him…”

“Waaaaaaaaaaah!” He belted in a tiny baby voice. I shook with laughter. Take THAT, Dr. Wise. His lungs sound fine to me! Tears began to well up in my eyes. Mike smiled even bigger and looked up at our baby.

“I can’t see him. Can you?” I asked.

Mike nodded. “Yes! And he’s beautiful!”

I closed my eyes and let myself feel relaxed as the doctors continued to sew me up. I heard them talking around me. He’s 14 inches long, 2 lbs and 3.5 ounces. I heard him crying, then stopping, then starting again.

“Mrs. Norman,” someone suddenly said above me. “Want to see your baby before we take him to the NICU?”

My eyes sprang open and there he was, tiny and bundled and wearing a cap. So sweet and precious. Mike snapped a picture.  “Can I kiss him?” I asked.

She brought him closer to my face.  My lips took up his whole cheek and most of his left eye. “I love you,” I whispered, and with that, the nurse put him in an incubator and asked if Mike wanted to follow.

I lay there alone, surrounded only by an entire staff of medical professionals whose sole job was to take care of me, but still very much alone. I started to cry, and Dr. Wise reached up and rubbed my arm. I felt it even though mostly numb all over my body. I looked at her and she said, “It will all be okay. He did great, and you did too.”

I didn’t get to hold my baby for two weeks. I visited him almost every day, never wanting to leave his side but being constantly forced to “get some rest” by my doctors and the neonatal nurses alike. Everyone had an opinion one what I should be doing, but all I wanted to do was hold him. He couldn’t be out of his incubator for long because they were afraid he’d get cold. I had to watch him through the plastic, kind of  like what Billy Corgan says in “Beautiful”: “With my face pressed up to the glass, wanting you.”

He couldn’t suck, so he couldn’t eat. They tube-fed him. Then he got NEC which was an infection of his bowels, and it ripped a hole through the wall of his intestines. He lost down to 1 lb 13 ounces. They caught it quickly and began a round of antibiotics that likely saved his life. A week and a half later, they tried to feed him again. This time, he swelled up so large and they noticed he wasn’t having a bowel movement. A few x-rays later and they learned that the anitbiotics they had given him for the NEC had helped to close the hole in the bowel back up, but that it had also left scar tissue. He would need surgery, they said.

They wouldn’t consider doing surgery till he weighed 4 lbs. At one month and  a half, Nicholas had a 4″ piece of his bowel removed. The surgeon later told us that it was completely dead tissue.  Four inches seemed like a lot on a tiny baby, but he recovered well.

Nicholas spent almost an entire month after the surgery in the hospital. He finally came home on January 20, 2005.

My birthing story was pain-free physically– I never felt a contraction! But the emotional pain was so intense that I can’t even begin to describe it. For two months I watched my child struggle to live, going home to an empty house every night, waiting for the time when God would hear my prayers and filly my arms with my baby. I am still not sure how Mike and I were both able to stay sane through any of that. It was both the best and worst time of our life.

And now he’s so old. Six. It’s hard to imagine how clueless he is about all he went through. Sure, he’s seen the pictures and heard the stories, but I doubt he realizes the depth of the situation, how scary it was, and how easily he could have been in that 40% of infants that die with NEC.

I know I will never forget how close we came to losing him, or to losing me! Even if all the other details are somewhat fuzzy.



  1. God has a plan for him and also for you…and I am so thankful to you and Mike for that precious baby well he would tell me he is not a baby but I say whatever Budz you are Gran’s baby and you always will be. He is such a blessing in my life and I thank God for him. I thank God for you too….I love you Angel.

    ~Moma~…..Aka Gran~

  2. holy crap i just read this NOW and boohooed like a baby. i faintly remember that moment playing smashing pumpkins for you. i think i started crying because i felt like i did something wrong and all the emotion was too much. and the granny pics, i hope someone puts granny by my bed in a hospital. i swear she is my guardian angel, and yours too.

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