I always wanted a big family.
I used to joke with my ex husband about how many kids we would have. I wanted 4; he wanted 2. So I said that we should have 6! That way if we get divorced, he can take his 2 and I will take my 4. If we ended up not getting divorced, then we would always have an extra gift lying around if we forgot someone’s birthday. “Oh, it’s your 30th? Here, have a baby!” And also we would have spares if any of the children needed a liver. Win-win-win.
When my oldest daughter was about a year and a half we decided to start trying for baby number two. The process was delayed a bit by the fact that it took three attempts in three different appointments to remove my IUD. Let’s just say I am no longer afraid of Hell.
I was excited to have another baby. I wanted to give my daughter a sibling. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t have my big family, but two would be enough. I was excited for number two. Until I got pregnant.
I peed on that stick with such vigor. I couldn’t wait for the results. With my first, it took awhile to determine pregnancy because my body is all kinds of fucked up. But with this pregnancy, that line showed up as soon as my pee hit the stick. My eggo was completely preggo. Exciting, right? Well, no. I don’t know why, but as soon as I saw those two lines, my heart sank.
All of a sudden I was filled with so much guilt. I run a home daycare, so my daughter has to share me with five other kids for over 50 hours a week. By the time all the other kids go home, it’s a rush to eat and bathe and get to bed. In the mornings there are often kids here before she wakes up. She barely gets me to herself at all, ever, and now I’m going to make her share me with another child 24 hours a day! I felt terrible.
I also felt like I was cheating on her somehow. This was her womb that I was using to grow another life. My belly would swell with a child that wasn’t her. I would use my breasts to feed a baby that wasn’t her. I would carry another child, I would kiss another child, I would love another child. And I immediately began to resent the life that was growing inside of me.
I had terrible morning sickness with both pregnancies. I was on medication for it and I was still throwing up a ridiculous amount every single day throughout the entire nine months. With my first, it was somewhat manageable because when the kids went home at the end of the day I could rest. I could spend my weekends napping. I could enjoy silence once in awhile. This time, I had a spirited two year old with me throughout the pregnancy. I couldn’t relax at all.
As a result of this, my stress levels were high. I was being monitored constantly. I was told repeatedly by my midwives to “take it easy.” Ha. Yeah. That’s not something I do.
I ate really well during my second pregnancy, but I was terrible with my prenatal vitamins. If I took them, I would throw up within five minutes. So sometimes I didn’t take them. I tried to make sure I was eating well enough to make up for that fact, but I was also constantly nauseous so eating wasn’t always my top priority. I also drank coffee. Not a lot. With my first, I abstained from caffeine completely. With my second, that wasn’t an option. I couldn’t function without a small cup of coffee in the morning.
I couldn’t feel a bond with my unborn child. With Iz, as soon as I found out I was pregnant I was in love with her. With this one, I couldn’t feel a connection. I told my husband that if it was a girl, I was going to name her Anna. Ever since I was really young, I wanted to name a daughter Anna. We found out the gender and it was a girl. But I couldn’t bring myself to name her Anna. She didn’t feel like an Anna. She didn’t feel like anything.
I went into labour two weeks early. I was completely not expecting it. Iz was late, so I assumed this child would be too. We had nothing ready in the way of a hospital bag. My water actually broke, like really broke, so I was running around wrapped in a towel trying to get stuff ready. When we headed to the hospital, they hooked me up to all sorts of monitors because I was trying for a VBAC.
After many, many, many hours of active labour and pushing, my blood pressure dropped; my temperature went way up; and Ab’s heart rate went way, way down. They rushed me into the OR for a c-section.
My husband was not allowed in the room, because neither of us were doing very well. It was pretty likely that they would lose both of us, so my husband had to wait in the hallway by himself. They cut me open and they couldn’t get her out. She was pretty far down the birth canal and the two OBs working could not get her unstuck. So they kept pulling. There’s also this thing they do when the baby is too far down where they, um, try to…push them back up. Yeah.
One of the OBs finally got her loose, but in the process tore my uterine arteries on both sides. Apparently an epidural is not enough to numb that pain. My blood pressure was almost nothing and my heart kept stopping. They had to constantly inject me with medication to keep my heart pumping as I was bleeding out on the table. I kept passing out. My midwife was holding my hand and she would squeeze it and yell at the doctors every time I passed out. I swear I saw myself on the table at one point.
When they got my daughter out, I heard a cry. And then…nothing. They have a sheet up so that you can’t see them rearranging your internal organs. I’ve since watched videos of c-sections and I very much wish I had not watched videos of c-sections. The sheet also prevented me from seeing my baby. All I knew was that I heard a cry and then nothing. I didn’t get to see her. No one was telling me anything. And there was searing pain, bright lights, and blackness.
I started screaming in pain. Apparently I was screaming so loud that my husband could hear me in the hallway. I started screaming for my baby. What happened to my baby? Where was she? Why couldn’t I see her? At this point I thought they had taken her because I was dying.
The second I heard that cry, though, all my apprehensions faded. All my guilt about having a second child melted away. I loved that baby more that I had ever loved anything or anyone, save my older daughter.
Abby had cried once and then stopped breathing. They rushed in a pediatric team who had to resuscitate her and then give her a breathing tube. My pediatrician who brought my daughter back to life is the senior-most pediatrician in my city. He said to me later that he had never seen a baby just stop breathing like that.
They took her to the special care nursery and I went into recovery. I was by myself in a room. I had no idea where my baby was or what was happening. When they moved me into a regular room a nurse told me that my daughter would be transferred to the NICU at a children’s hospital nearby.
When the ambulance arrived, they took Abby. I was allowed to go also, but I had to wait for my own ambulance. It was late February and there was a snowstorm, so it was a few hours before my ambulance arrived. When I got to the children’s hospital, the nurses in my ward wouldn’t tell me anything about my daughter because she was in a separate ward. I couldn’t go see her because I had just had major surgery and I couldn’t move on my own. I didn’t even know if my daughter was alive.
Abby was born around 8pm. My husband arrived at the hospital just after noon the next day. He went to the NICU to make sure my daughter was alive and then came to get me. My daughter was 16 hours old before I got to meet her.
She was covered in wires. Tubes everywhere. Propped up so that she could breathe. But she was alive.
They did countless tests and we still don’t know why she stopped breathing. She had a cyst in her nose which could have blocked her airway. She has a recessed jaw so it’s possible that her tongue flopped back and blocked her throat. She had swelling in her brain.
She is 21 months old and we are still dealing with a slew of follow-up appointments. She has developmental delays. I don’t know if she will ever catch up.
And I feel so much guilt. I didn’t love her while she was inside me. I didn’t take my vitamins properly. I drank coffee. I didn’t rest. I feel like everything she is struggling with is punishment for my behaviours.
I am still so afraid that she will die. I spent the first six months of her life barely letting her out of my sight. I didn’t trust anyone with her. I wouldn’t even leave her with my husband unless I knew she would sleep the whole time. I didn’t make plans in advance because what if I was planning a funeral. I didn’t sign her up for activities because I didn’t want to have to cancel them.
Every night when I put her to bed I am not sure she will wake up in the morning.
That’s probably one of the reasons that I haven’t done much sleep training with her. I would love to sleep through the night again, but at least when she wakes up 75 times a night it means she’s alive.
I still have frequent dreams about my c-section. I remember every detail. I wake up at night sweating because I feel like it’s happening again. Sometimes I can feel the slow tearing in my uterus, so slow, again and again. I see her little face, tubes and wire and cords everywhere.
I hear her cry and then…silence. Nothing. Blackness.