Wednesday October 26, 2011 started out like many other days have during Kara’s pregnancy. I woke up early to take care of Maddox; Kara got up and I made her some breakfast. There were a few differences, though. Pepper had been with the Vet – Dr. Howard – the previous night because he had battled seizures the day before. Kara was up earlier than normal and put on makeup. She was very calm and relaxed for the appointment. It was a growth ultrasound and all we wanted to know was how much the babies had grown. Was it 3 pounds? A little more? A little less? Probably the biggest thing on our mind was getting Pepper back from the Vet and making sure he was ok.
We went to the Vet before heading off to our appointment because we needed to drop off Pepper’s medication. We told them that we’d see them later and we were off. We reached the doctor’s office shortly after. We had been to that office seemingly a thousand times before that day. Each time seemed like the previous. We’d wait in the waiting area for 10-20 minutes, go back to a tiny room, get an ultrasound, meet with 1-2 doctors, schedule the next appointment, and go home. So many people come in and out of that office seemingly all day. Very nice people there, though. But I can’t say I’m going to miss going there every week.
As soon as they called Kara’s name, I smiled and laughed at her. The lady working the ultrasound was not one of Kara’s favorites. While she was very nice to us, she also seemed to always have difficulty finding the fluid levels or keeping track of which baby she was examining on the screen. Kara flashed me a look. I knew that look pretty well. It was her “I’m not happy but I can’t do anything about it” face. Sure enough once we got started, the tech looked uneasy at the screen. I rolled my eyes to myself, thinking she was just having her usual problems. My only concern at this point was our appointment was going to take an extra hour. Eventually she got the necessary measurements. When we asked how much Georgia weighed, she said 2 pounds, 4 ounces. Kara and I looked at each other confused. “2 pounds, 4 ounces? She was 1 pound, 12 ounces 4 weeks ago?” Again, my initial thought was the ultrasound tech was just not getting things right. “The doctor will figure out what is going on” I thought to myself. Eventually a doctor showed up and started looking at the same images. Except this time there was something else they were reviewing: cord blood flow. I really had no idea what right looked like; I just kept waiting for one of them to reassure us that things were fine. Turns out our day was just starting…
During our scheduled time with the doctor, she told us that they were concerned that Georgia was not gaining enough weight and that her cord blood flow was reversing. She instructed us that we would go to Banner Desert for further observation. We quickly left the premises and headed to Banner Desert. Once we got to the Triage, we were immediately instructed to go to Admitting/Registration – another wrinkle. Now our thoughts were they were going to admit Kara to the hospital and monitor her. I wasn’t crazy about the idea because just a week ago were told we may deliver as late as December 1st – 35 weeks. 5 weeks in the hospital? Kara was going to be miserable. Add on the challenges of figuring out the dog situation and it was a little stressful. Again we went to an ultrasound where the tech reviewed the same things: Georgia’s measurements and her cord flow. The tech did not say much, only that she would share the information with Dr. Spence. Dr. Spence was someone Kara and I were familiar with. She had actually figured out the sex of the babies just 4 months earlier. But until Dr. Spence could review the ultrasounds…we waited…and waited…and waited. Apparently Dr. Spence was busy with other patients and some kind of meeting. At around 1:30pm they let Kara know she could eat something. It had been 6 hours since we ate anything. 45 minutes later Kara was able to eat a hamburger. In that time we were told that we may or may not be getting admitted to the hospital. So are we going home anytime soon?
Around 3:15pm Dr. Spence finally showed up to articulate her concerns. The cord blood flow on Georgia and her minimal growth meant our week was about change. “We’re either going to do a C-Section later tonight or tomorrow morning. Tomorrow would be preferable because we can get the right team in place right at the start of the day.” Our minds were racing. “I have to get our dog from the Vet before it closes. Do I have to time to get him and drop him off?” Dr. Spence said I should do that now and we’d have a decision made shortly after I got back. Off I went, heading back towards the house. I tried to call my dad and Mary Lou from the van when Kara called me. “We’re doing the C-Section at 5pm. You need to get back here as soon as possible.” 5pm? I had just left and the decision was still up in the air. “What the hell changed in the last five minutes?” Apparently there was an opening at 5pm and Dr. Spence wasn’t going to wait. I drove as quickly as I could to get Pepper, dropped him off at home, grabbed some items, and headed back to the hospital. I texted my best friend Brett to see if he’d get over to the house to keep an eye on Pepper. I also reached my dad and Mary Lou and told them that their grandchildren were coming tonight. Shock, disbelief, excitement, panic, anxiety…how many thoughts/emotions can run through someone’s head in such a short amount of time?
When I got back to the hospital Kara was getting prepped for the surgery. I was told to put on a hospital gown. I learned that they design the hospital gowns as if every man is as large as Shaquille O’Neal. After finally tightening them the point where they wouldn’t come off I went back to see Kara. Eventually they led us to the room where the C-Section would be performed. I was asked to wait outside while they prepped Kara. I was only out in the hallway for about 15 minutes, but in that time I saw 12 nurses walk by (all of whom presumably knowing what I was going through). I just paced around the area like I do when I’m stressed or anxious about something. Kara makes fun of me because I do that when the Steelers are playing.
Once they let me in I asked Kara, “Are you ready to be a mom?” I smiled for her. I knew she was dealing with a hell of a lot more than I was and I did my best to be calm and reassuring about everything. I truly wasn’t nervous about the procedure or the health of the babies. I just hated the sitting around and waiting, even if it was only a few minutes. Once they got started, though, things happened quickly. I was not allowed beyond this large sheet, so everything was happening behind it. Before I even registered we were really starting, we heard a baby cry – it was Georgia! She was born at 5:27pm. They briefly showed us to her and she was whisked away to her team of doctors/nurses. Mickey came next. He was born at 5:28pm. Mickey didn’t seem very happy to be here, to be quite honest. He was in the most comfortable position inside Kara, so this whole experience probably pissed him off. When they brought him over to see us, he had this angry look on his face, almost saying to us “What is your problem? I was just fine in there!” Jolynne was born at 5:29pm. Each was being tended to by a team of professionals. I was asked to cut Mickey’s cord and as soon as each one was ready they were brought upstairs to the NICU. I followed Jolynne out as the third and final baby to reach the NICU.
The NICU is really something to see. The babies are in their own little cocoons. They have monitors telling the team everything from heart rate, oxygen levels, and everything else in between. I was allowed to roam free throughout the process, though I still felt weird being up there. “Am I in the way?” “Do you need me to come back?” “Are they ok?” Everyone was doing fine and nobody was bothered by my presence.
At some point after things calmed down, I was able to sit and look at each of my children without disruption. I’m going to try to articulate that feeling I had that night (and still have since). I have been through stressful situations before. I have experienced plenty in my time on this earth. I have read all about becoming a parent and what that is like. But I wasn’t completely prepared for that feeling. I am in awe of those babies. I can’t imagine my life without them now. There are moments in our lives and we all know them when they happen that change you. I have even had a few of those moments in my lifetime. To me, the entire world looked different; smelled different; and felt different after my children were born. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.