Violet : Longreads Blog

Violet was born at 25 weeks and five days—more than three months ahead of her due date. This is a story about becoming parents in the face of uncertainty.

This story was funded by Longreads MembersJoin and help support great storytellingAdele Oliveira | Longreads | January 2016 | 23 minutes (5,727 words)

I don’t believe in fate, or that life events, both everyday and profound, unfold the way that they’re supposed to. Yet the first six months of my first pregnancy were at once mundane and ordained. I got pregnant quickly. Morning sickness and a sore back arrived right on schedule. Growing up, my mom acquainted me with the details (like gaining 60 pounds) of her two healthy pregnancies and the unmedicated, uncomplicated births that resulted in me and my sister. I’d wanted to be a mother since I was a toddler pretending to breastfeed my dolls, and so I outlined the birth of a healthy child in an indelible mental framework, so unconscious and routine that it felt like destiny.My pregnancy ended abruptly when our daughter Violet was born two years ago in late September, at 25 weeks gestation, about three months ahead of schedule. The day of Violet’s birth feels like a bad dream, partly because I was on a variety of strong drugs. I remember almost all of it with nauseating specificity, but it still doesn’t seem quite real; like it happened to somebody else. The day before my baby was born, I left work early for a last-minute doctor’s appointment. It was the first time a doctor uttered the term “pre-eclampsia” to me; I learned it was an autoimmune response to pregnancy that I’d heard of only once before when eclampsia, the advanced form of the disease, tragically killed Lady Sybil Crawley on the third season of Downton Abbey. In pre-eclampsia, the blood pressure starts to rise, and the only cure is giving birth. Eclampsia can lead to seizure, stroke, and death. The family doctor sent me home with a blood pressure monitor and instructions to call in the morning. When I contacted my OB-GYN the next morning and told him about my appointment with the other doctor, he said, “meet me at the hospital.” My mom drove me; I ate a yogurt in the car.A nurse at the hospital in Santa Fe, my hometown, had me pee in a cup and then injected my upper thigh with steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop in case she had to be delivered early.“Don’t worry, honey,” the nurse said. “I don’t think you’re going to deliver today.”Even then, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. She hooked me up to a magnesium drip, which made me feel drunk and sleepy and my face swell and redden, and I slept in the ambulance on the way to a hospital in Albuquerque, one of two in the state which has a level III neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. Once at the hospital, an hour away from home, my husband Roberto by my side and my parents en route, a technician squirted jelly on my not-yet-enormous belly and frowned as she looked at the ultrasound. She called the doctor, who looked at the monitor and told me that blood was flowing backward, the way it wasn’t supposed to, from fetus to placenta.“You’re going to have a c-section,” he told me. “I’ll try my best to do a transverse incision, but I might have to do a classical section, in which case, any future children you have will have to be delivered by c-section, OK?”“Fine.” I said. I took a deep breath and asked him if I was going to die. He smiled, almost laughed, and said I wasn’t. I didn’t ask about the baby.I was amazed by how quickly the doctors and nurses and technicians moved; in the moment, even though adrenaline had me by the throat, I was most struck by their professionalism and skill. I got a spinal tap and did the breathing exercises I’d learned in my childbirth class as my emergency c-section was performed, Roberto in scrubs by my head, the anesthesiologist making me laugh with dark OR humor: “a c-section is like getting your dresser drawers rearranged. Or so I’m told.” Violet was born in the caul (amniotic sac) and immediately after the birth, which took ten minutes, the doctors whisked our baby away to resuscitate and intubate her. They told us that she was alive, but barely, and weighed just over a pound.The first time I saw Violet (who was then unnamed), I was bloated and tired from surgery, and still in shock. We have a picture of the moment. I look terrible, and not just because of the surgery, but because I am looking at a child that’s not ready to be born. I had determined that I would try my best to remain at least a little detached; it did not seem likely that my baby would survive, and I was desperate to protect myself from hurting too much. I didn’t think I could handle the loss. But when I saw my daughter’s tiny red body under saran wrap on a tilted, flat bed, a thousand cords and wires attached to her chest, her eyes not yet open, and a ventilator breathing for her, I was not surprised to find that I loved her right away. I knew I’d never love anyone more, and I knew I’d always miss her if she died.* * *

Source: Violet : Longreads Blog

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