Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Tower of Terror: Aurelia's Birth Day.

You know how people talk about emotional roller coasters?  Last night as I was trying to fall asleep and thinking about the important day coming up today, I couldn't help but think that the term "emotional roller coaster" didn't really do justice to one year ago today.  With a roller coaster, there are lots of ups and downs and loops and thrills.  There are moments where you stomach drops, where you wait in eager anticipation for the next plunge, where you open your mouth to scream and nothing comes out.  And there's that great moment at the end where you get off the ride, knees knocking, silly smile splashed across your ashen face, and you go look at that picture at the screen with a grainy photo of eyes wide with terror (or if you're savvy, flashing a smile, peace sign, shaka, whatever you fancy).  While a lot of this applies to one year ago today (thrills, screams, peaks, plunges, smiles, happy/silly photos), there is one key element that roller coasters have that our experience didn't: forward motion.  So, as I contemplated our roller coaster ride on 8/23/2010, I realized that a more appropriate ride for us would be The Tower of Terror.

If you haven't been on this ride at Disneyland or DisneyWorld, it's one of those free fall drop rides.  Except, you don't free fall straight down.  You drop, and then stop, then go up again and then stop, and then drop a little more, and then stop, and so on.  All the while, you're waiting.  Waiting in between the ups and downs, waiting to see which way you'll go, waiting for this big final drop into the abyss of the tower.  And before you board the ride, you wait in line listening to the people before you scream.  It's an experience in exhilaration, anticipation, and expectation, complete with grainy photo at the end.  I should mention that my experience on the Tower of Terror was with my mother-in-law on her 50th birthday, what a way to celebrate!

One year ago today, I woke up in the morning ready to have a baby:

Cue anticipation, excitement, anxiety, but mostly joy.
After weeks of deliberating, discussing, and delaying today was the big day.  My c-section was on the books.  There was just one little appointment to get out of the way.  My longtime readers may remember the discussion on lung development versus early delivery/shunt placement.  They scheduled an amniocentesis just to make sure those little lungs were developed, although we had been reassured continually that it was just one more safety net.  So, we did what Team Hawk does best while we waited for our 10:00 appointment and 4:00 delivery, we enjoyed being together our last morning as a team of 2.  We went to coffee (which was on the house when the barista asked me when I was due and I said, "We're on our way right now!), we enjoyed a leisurely morning in the sunshine, we even had a lunch date planned with my newlywed cousin and her husband between the amnio and check-in (although I would be fasting at that point).  The first little dip on our thrill ride was the amnio.  I know my sisters-in-law are squeamish and read this blog, so I'll just leave it at large needle to the belly.  It was uncomfortable.  And then we waited.  An hour later we had a major plunge as we pulled in for lunch and got the call saying Baby Hawk's test results came back negative and her lungs weren't developed.  "We'll try again next week," they said.  Talk about crestfallen.  We had our bag all packed in the car and everything.  We were prepared.  And all the while I know that the pressure in her head is building and building.  And so we instead prepared to wait longer.

I love this picture.  It's me and my 10 day old nephew, Padraig.  Swimming through my mind at this exact moment was the thought that I was supposed to be holding my baby that day, but now it looked like I would have to wait.
I ate a bite of enchilada at lunch in protest to the fact that I was no longer having my baby that day.  My ob called to say he was sorry about the news, and that I needed to come in right away to do all kinds of tests in case I went into labor in the next week.  At his office, he went over the full report of the amnio with us.  He said, "Well, it says her lungs are transitional, which means they are either fully developed now, or will be in the next 48 hours.  Let's go ahead and schedule your c-section for Wednesday."  After a quick phone call to the surgery scheduling office, he turned and said, "Well, let's just do it today.  What's the point in waiting two more days?  GO TO THE HOSPITAL!"  We're having a baby today. . . again. . . we think.  When we got to the hospital, there was very little time to process anything at this point, everything was in motion.  Although it still felt like such a wait.  Waiting to get my IV placed (so many pokes), waiting for the OR to be ready, waiting for results, waiting for our baby.  And al the while wondering about that big plunge coming at the end, wondering what she'll look like, wondering how she'll handle this world, wondering what's going on in that little head of hers.  At one point I was told that my blood pressure was dangerously high and that it's a good thing we were delivering now because I would have been in the ER soon otherwise.  Suddenly the pace picked up, we're in the OR, getting the epidural, getting prepped, meeting the nurses and doctors who would care for our baby, and then I went under the knife.  And I revisited that enchilada bite (kudos to my amazing anesthesiologist who helped me through vomiting mid surgery).  And I waited to hear my baby cry.  I kept thinking it should have happened by now.  This was the longest wait, the moment before the big plunge.  The doctor said, "1, 2, 3," which I later found out was the number of times her cord was around her neck, and moments that felt like minutes later I heard the most beautiful, strong, fully-lung-developed cry.  She needed a little help to get going.  Joey told me she was perfect, that she was beautiful.  They paused as they wheeled her to the NICU so I could see her, and this is what I saw staring back at me:

Those beautiful, serious eyes.  It was love at first sight.
Then began the actual longest wait.  We waited while they sewed me up.  We waited for my blood pressure to stabilize, which it didn't.  We waited to hear about our daughter's condition.  We had no idea what was in store for this little one.  We really didn't know what was going on with me either.  So many ups and downs, but no forward movement.  When they made the call to put me in the Perinatal Special Care Unit, Joey went to be give updates to all Baby Hawk's waiting fans and to be with our daughter.  And can I just say how I am so amazed by my husband's strength during all this?  His wife and daughter were both in intensive care, and he was so brave for all of us.  The next day we'd both be in surgery at the same time, and again he handled it so well.  When they wheeled my stretcher down the hall from recovery to my special room, they stopped by the NICU and we got our first family photo:

We named her Aurelia Kathleen Joy.  Aurelia means golden and was found on my family tree.  Kathleen was my mother's name, it means pure.  And Joy is from Joey's side, and is so fitting to our baby who is such a joy to have in our lives.

The ride is far from over, and the days following her birth had some of the biggest ups and downs we've experienced so far.  And there will be many more ups and downs to come.  But we feel like we're finally out of the Tower and moving forward with another little person along for the journey.

Happy 1st Birthday to my special little girl!  You came into the world like a thrill ride, and we've loved every second of it (even the plunges).

1 comment:

Jan Leigh said...

Beautifully written. Someday you will sit with Aurelia and read this together and once again (for the millionth time) thank God for the miracle of life. Thanks for sharing this little look back at the last year. You are amazing parents and Aurelia is such a special gift.