Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Face I Won't Forget

So, dear readers, it's been a bit too long since I was last here. The last time I posted, I talked about Nolan turning three...and here I am two months later and Aaron is turning two.

You probably all know Aaron was a preemie. At 29 weeks, out of nowhere, I went into labor and delivered him within an hour of my arrival at the hospital. Although I had been having contractions all day long, my morning visit to the hospital found no cause for concern. Twelve hours later I was back there, and was told I was at 10 cm and my baby was delivering immediately.

There's no way to explain how that feels, hearing those words. Shock. Panic. Fear. In the triage unit, as they quickly did an ultrasound to determine that Aaron was head down and ready to be born and prepared to wheel me back, I heard the words and felt the ground drop from under me. I couldn't breathe all of a sudden. I grasped at the oxygen mask over my face, trying to get it off, and the only thing I could say was the word "No" over and over.

Leaning over me, close to my face, the nurse looked me in the eye and told me to breathe. And she told me my baby was going to be ok. That he had everything he needed to survive, he was just going to need a little help to grow. She was calm, cool, collected and so certain that my little Aaron, not yet free from the womb he was apparently so anxious to escape, was going to be just fine.

In retrospect, I know she had no way of knowing for sure he would be fine. 29 weeks is early enough that most people give me a look of shock when I say the number. It's not the earliest gestational age at which a baby can survive, but it's certainly very early. It was very possible that he could have serious complications, and long-term ramifications of his early birth.

But right then, it was the only thing she could have said, and I am forever grateful. After that moment, I didn't panic again. The birth was hard, and I was still afraid for my little guy, but the panic was gone. In that moment, when she looked me in the eye, she became a focal point for me and carried me through one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

When I close my eyes, I can still see her. Every detail of her face. The random labor and delivery nurse who was assigned to me by chance, and made it possible for me to calm down enough to do what I needed to do. The woman who didn't know me from Eve, but looked me in the eye and said what I needed to hear. I never got to thank her.

So today, as I look back on that day exactly two years ago, and my little preemie is doing just fine as predicted, I want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to that nurse who stood by me and helped me breathe. Thank you to all the nurses who bring babies into the world every day. I know you do the harder job, and the OB's for all their training and paycheck are really the ones assisting.

Thank you for helping all of us with the strange, beautiful, sometimes intensely frightening process of childbirth. Thank you, random nurse whose name I don't remember but whose face I can't forget, for assuring me my baby would be just fine. You're right. He is.