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The Beautiful Woman's Version

Since the internet is a somewhat more public forum than the typical birth announcement or Christmas letter, this story has been edited by the site owner. (You know, the one who uses Michael Mock as a psuedonym.) Edits are indicated by the use of [square brackets], or by the simple device of shortening a full name to its first letter. The purpose of these edits is not to alter the story, but rather to preserve some small measure of privacy for all those involved in the events depicted. If you're reading this, you probably know who we are anyway... but humor me. 

And now, without further ado, the Beautiful Woman's account of giving birth: 

On June 6, 2006, I walked onto the Labor & Delivery floor of [a pleasantly reputable hospital]  like I was going on vacation. My bag was packed full of everything other people recommended that I bring - books, music, crossword puzzles, journals, massage oil and, inexplicably, a sewing project.

Apparently, I thought that I was going to have enough spare time to learn to knit.

None of these items was ever removed from my bag. From the moment that the first gel was applied which induced labor, I was occupied with Theron's birth. My husband and I spent 24 hours in the hospital, while I was in the midst of very early labor, in a surreal haze. How odd it felt, to finally reach this event we'd been thinking about for so long.

And, well, how odd that the entire event never sped up…. Basically, I dilated to 2 cm, with back labor, and stayed there for those 24 hours. My doctor had been worried that Theron was too big for my pelvis, and the fact that he never descended into the cervix despite a lot of chemical intervention eventually led to my doctor's decision to deliver him by c-section.

So, while [my irresistibly handsome husband], my parents, and cousin A_ stood by in support, the nurses prepped me for surgery at 7 PM on June 7th. This was the first surgery that I'd ever had, besides having my wisdom teeth removed, which really doesn't seem to count as a "serious surgery". Knowing that Theron would be in the world shortly after the c-section began was thrilling, though. I suppose that - after 24 hours of waiting - I was more excited about meeting Theron for the first time than afraid of the surgery. Plus, I wasn't doing this alone. [My witty, charming, and self-effacing husband] was, as he has been throughout our marriage, by my side being supportive and funny, distracting me and encouraging me.

So, after so many hours of waiting, I was wheeled into the operating room. My thoughts weren't really deep. They tended to be things like, "Boy, I'm glad that I live in a developed nation where all of the instruments are sterile," and "If I can tell that I've lost my sock, does that mean the epidural isn't working?"

Fortunately, the doctor, nurses and anesthesiologist were excellent. The surgery itself felt a bit like people were drawing with magic markers on my tummy. Quickly, [my husband] began distracting me from the surgery with a silly story involving a porcupine and his buddies. Within minutes, before [The World's Handsomest Man™] had fully explained how the porcupine became a rock star, I felt a tugging sensation and heard the most welcome sound - a large, robust cry. The doctor held this squirmy little boy over the curtain they'd set up between my face and abdomen, so that I couldn't see the surgery itself. Our son! Theron was here!

[My very manly husband] quickly wrapped up his story and the nurse, who'd been measuring Theron and doing mysterious things to clean him in the corner, returned with our little boy tightly swaddled, wearing a stocking cap like a pirate. [The Handsome Man] held him close to my face, since I was strapped down to the operating table, but the baby was so well-wrapped that I could only see the soft curve of his little chubby cheek. Then [my husband]  went upstairs with the nurse and Theron while I stayed behind in the operating room as the doctor finished sewing me up. Ironically, while it only takes a few minutes to actually deliver a baby by c-section, it takes at least 45 minutes to sew everything back up. So, I was conscious and impatient as the team finished putting me back together. When they'd finished with the surgery, I even joked with them about the chances of the Dallas Mavericks winning the series (which, as we all know now, were zero). 

Then I was wheeled back to the recovery room. It was at this point that I realized that my life had changed irrevocably. Not only was I a mother, but I was a mother of a child with a problem. Something was wrong with Theron. People came in and they mentioned "a little breathing difficulty" and said that the nurses in the nursery were running some tests. [Pappa-John and Myrtle], my wonderful in-laws, came to join the group. Everyone took turns running up to the nursery to see the baby, telling me encouraging things when they came back downstairs. But it just didn't feel right. When the nurses finally wheeled my bed up to the same floor, I insisted that they take me into the nursery to see Theron. There he was on a table crowded with monitoring equipment and an oxygen hood, struggling for each breath.

I told myself that this wasn't a big deal. Theron would be better soon. The neonatologist who came to see me and [my husband] at midnight said much the same thing. Theron either had an infection, amniotic fluid in his lungs, or a lack of a chemical called surfactant. Our pediatrician told us at 6 AM that Theron didn't seem to have an infection. When we visited him the next day, Theron was entirely shrouded within the mist of the oxygen hood, which covered most of his body. All I could see were his little arms and legs, and I'd almost forgotten what his face looked like.

On Friday morning, Theron was placed on Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which means that these tiny little tubes went up his nostrils, constantly blowing air into his lungs. Because Theron seemed to lack surfactant (a chemical that keeps the lungs from sticking together when they deflate) he was in danger of collapsing a lung without this help. Understandably, the little guy hated CPAP, and actually was coordinated enough to bring both hands to his face and wrench the tubes out of his nose. At this point, the small hospital that we were in decided that their NICU was insufficient and a team of neonatologists from [another] Hospital were called to transfer him. The team arrived, looking like a cross between an Olympic luge team and Charlie's Angels. They were knowledgeable, gentle and professional - and quickly administered artificial surfactant to Theron and put him on a ventilator, which allowed him to get some rest. The poor little boy had been fighting for every breath since Wednesday night.

The team carefully packed Theron in a clear glass case (which looked disturbingly like a glass coffin) hooked to a bank of instruments and wheeled him down the hospital corridor, to put him in the ambulance for transfer. I couldn't stop crying. There was my baby, being wheeled away. [My husband, the hero]  went with them, though, and I knew that he would do everything we needed to have done.

I was allowed to check out of the hospital on Saturday afternoon, after strong warnings from my nurses and the doctor on duty to "take it easy" and not to lift anything heavier than the baby. Ironically, I hadn't even held Theron at that point. So leaving the hospital felt like defeat, because it meant that I finally had to give up the dream that I'd had of leaving with my baby in my arms. Coming home and looking at our empty nursery was awful. So, I cried a little, whenever the sadness or fear could sneak in.

However, sometimes life showers you with blessings. Every day that Theron was at [the other] Hospital he improved. He was off the ventilator on Saturday and back on CPAP. On Sunday, I was able to hold him for the first time. Then, on Monday, we walked into the room and realized that he was breathing room air! I never realized how grateful I could be to see my little boy's chest rise and fall so naturally.

With help from the lactation consultants at both hospitals, I'd been able to keep Theron's feeding tube stocked with pumped breast milk. This meant that we were able to easily transition Theron to breastfeeding on Monday night. On Tuesday, he took all of his feedings through either the breast or bottle. Because he was able to eat so well, on Wednesday morning we were called and told to come pick him up. We sped to the hospital without even an outfit to dress him in. We ended up buying a onesie, baby socks, and slippers in the hospital gift shop. Miraculously, I was finally wheeled down to an exit holding our baby in my arms.

So, here's the Happy Ending! Theron is home, thriving. He's surpassed his birth weight of 7 pounds, 6 ounces and has completely enthralled his parents. We're in love with him, and do what all parents do, forget the poopy diapers and 3 AM feedings every time he smiles or snuggles close.