I don't remember if Eric had called them or whether they had arrived unawares (I suspect the former), but the couple in charge of the high-school group at church where we volunteer showed up. The neonatalogist had stopped by again, this time to spin the positives of a 24-week-old baby; the day before had been more gloom. As he prepared to head to surgery and await the arrival of our child, he asked if he could pray with us, so the five of us had a short prayer.
I was prepped for surgery and taken to the operating room.
The anesthesiologist was prepared to give me my spinal. Apparently it was difficult for him to find the exact center of my spine where he needed to inject, so for each of the four shots, he would press the needle tip to my back and ask, "Do you think this is in the middle, left, or right?" Only if I answered middle would he proceed with the injection. I must have done okay, since I was appropriately numb for surgery, although the last one was so incredibly painful. I don't think it came to tears, but there was much grimacing taking place.
Eric was then brought into the room, and the surgery began. We knew this was a tenuous time. She was so small at this stage, the brink of viability. The doctor had said depending on our daughter's condition, they may have to rush her to the NICU, so we shouldn't be concerned if we didn't get to see her. Also, with the likelihood that she would need assistance breathing, he also informed us that we may not hear a cry because of the obstruction, so we shouldn't be concerned.
Our little daughter was born at nineteen ounces and 11 3/4 inches long at 10:06 AM. The sound of her newborn cries was one of the most welcoming sounds I've ever heard, and I promptly dissolved into tears. For me, even as I had begun showing and feeling little slight movements, there was much that still felt surreal and none of this was supposed to happen until December, so the frail sounds of our daughter, while proving that she had some developed lungs, also reinforced the fact that life would now be different since we were suddenly parents, an event we had been anticipating.
Apgar scores were 6 for the one-minute check and 8 for the five-minute one. Eric had the camera ready and spent his time taking pictures of our little girl and watching over me. I had to laugh when on one of his returns, he caught a glimpse of the other side of the sheet as they were stitching me up, and only with some deep breaths was he able to regain composure.
Our daughter was doing well enough that when it was time to head to the NICU, they took the time to wheel her next to me and pause for a couple minutes. She was so tiny but entirely whole. I was even amazed to see some black hair already on her tiny head. There was no extra flesh on her, as that was to have come in the remaining weeks, but every little bit of her was perfect.
We didn't have a girl's name selected yet, but as I wheeled to surgery, in my mind I knew we would have to name our little girl Grace, although I hadn't yet shared my decision with Eric yet; after her birth, Eric himself would volunteer that same name. We would later learn that more than one relative was thinking of and praying for our daughter, even before she was formally named, as Baby Grace. We felt we really had no option -- when a baby is given a chance at life at only 24 weeks and at such a tiny size, every minute we had with her was due to the grace of God.
One of the nurses shared with me that the surgery was done at the right time; our daughter had expelled meconium in the womb, which meant she was beginning to show signs of stress. With everything that would happen later, this was a consolation to remember. Had the surgery been delayed, the outcome could have been more sobering, and although I certainly wouldn't have wished for her to come so early, I needn't spend energy blaming a doctor for rushing me to surgery unnecessarily or prematurely, as it was done at the proper time.
Over the next few days, doctors and nurses alike encouraged us by repeatedly stating we had one leg up because we had a girl; apparently girls in the NICU fare better than boys. I had no idea what to expect or when to be optimistic. I didn't have the heart to ask the size of the smallest baby in the NICU in recent history (or the outcome), but Eric's parents did ask the first part, and the answer was nine ounces. At 24 weeks, she was at the cusp of viability, so we tried not to think too far ahead and take each day as it arrived.
I think I'll include some of Eric's updates from time to time, since my memory is faulty due to the painkillers I was on and just the monotony of the days following, so his timeline can help ground these posts. Any indented text on these posts can be credited to him:
We've been out of the operating room for about an hour. Faith is doing very well; her blood pressure started dropping (plummeting, really) during surgery and is now about down to normal. Her pulse has also stabilized, and the nurses think that her swelling is starting to go down as well. The only symptom that hasn't gone away yet is her blurred vision; she's still not seeing clearly out of her left eye. The nurses hope that will recede shortly.
As far as our daughter, she entered the world at 10:06, weighing all of 19 ounces. We haven't been able to see her since she left the OR--they're doing a number of procedures on her in the premature baby ward--but I've been told that she is doing very well. It'll be a long road with lots of hills and valleys before she'll be able to leave the hospital, but it appears that the start of that journey has been promising. Right now all we can do is hope and pray that she continues to grow and mature as she should, and that she doesn't fall prey to infection, heart problems, brain problems, or any of the dozens of things that could overcome her this early.
Her name is still forthcoming; we thought we would have a few more weeks to settle on a girl's name.
I was taken back to my room as Eric checked out the NICU, and they placed me on magnesium for 24 hours. This was due to my preeclampsia and to ward off any potential seizures, which is what could happen if my condition worsened to eclampsia.
Unfortunately, this would compound my vision problems, as it caused blurriness in my right eye as well (side effect). I had already been infrequent with wearing my glasses, and this made them useless. My right eye had about half that was blurry, and my left evolved during my time in the hospital. At one point, without my glasses I could see clearly from the middle of my left eye (TV from across the room, for instance), and on the peripheral, it was all blurry, like trying to see in a pool with water swirling across.
Next post: Continued Hospitalization and Saying Goodbye