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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Don't Take The Girl

Warning: Emotional roller coaster ahead. E-Lo, Mrs. Mogul and any other preggers out there, go away. I love you but this isn't mommy-to-be reading.)

It's hard to believe eleven years have gone by but the memories flash like it's all happening again. On November 9th, 1994, at 9 p.m. I sat my huge ass down on the couch to watch TV. When my cheeks met the cushions, my water broke.

Mr. Lane and Lane 1 were already sleeping. I called my mom. Even though labor pains hadn't started yet, she insisted I wake Mr. Lane up so he could bring Lane 1 to her and take me to the hospital. The birth of Lane 1 was under four hours from the water breaking to the final push. She said the second time around is usually quicker.

With a beach towel shoved between my legs, I quickly waddled around the house, like a penguin on crack, gathering everything we needed to take with us.

I never had early labor pains, I went straight from nothing to "Holy mother of God," buckle me over, pains. I had back labor for 13 hours. The nurses put me in all sorts of positions to try to keep me comfortable and take the pressure off of my back. Nothing seemed to help.

Knowing gravity was my only ally, I took my fat ass for a walk down the hall. With wires dangling off of my every body part and a towel crammed between my legs, I intended to stroll until that baby fell out. It seemed like a good plan. Until the pains started again. I squatted down, trying to get leverage. I placed my palms to the floor to catch my balance. Keep in mind I was wearing one of those lovely "Let it all hang out," hospital gowns, which means, as I was catching myself, my big white ass was up in the air.

The doctor finally stopped by and told me to stay in bed. I guess my glow in the dark ass was scaring the other patients. He kept saying my reward would come soon in the form of a healthy baby. And I believed him, which gave me strength.

Mr. Lane was the typical second time around dad. Completely unfazed, a real pro, as he sat his stupid ass in the La-Z-Boy and fell asleep. It wasn't until the 12th hour of labor that he finally woke up. By then, a room full of people stood around evaluating me.

My nurse was offering me drugs, which I'd finally warmed up to the idea of. I had refrained because I was going to breast feed and didn't want anything going into the baby's system.

Mr. Lane finally spoke, "Aw, come on ya wimp. You don't need that crap."

I gave my loving husband the "Die fucker!" look and told the nurse, "Give me all ya got."

The shot of Demerol really helped my body relax and do its job. Less than one hour after the shot, I was pushing.

When she finally decided to come out, Lane 2 didn't cry. Her color didn't look right. Something was wrong.

The doctor said, "She's fine. She just had a rough night, as did her mommy."

I didn't buy it. Moms just know. I was able to hold her for a couple of minutes and then they whisked her away. Less than an hour later, she was put on a ventilator because she wasn't breathing steadily. By then my husband had gone home to shower and get our son so he could see his baby sister.

I was alone when the doctor told me she stopped breathing and might not make it to Thanksgiving. I fell apart. Face pressed against her incubator wanting desperately to hold her, I felt the worst kind of pain ever. The doctor suggested she might have Septicemia or Meningitis.

They prepared her for a transfer to Loyola Medical Center. I finally gathered myself and called my husband back to the hospital. I put my normal clothes back on and packed my bag but they told me I couldn't go with her. You can imagine, I didn't take that well. I signed an AMA (Against Medical Advice) form and as my husband arrived, I met him in the parking lot, bag in hand.

It was the longest ride ever, even though it was 30 miles to the other hospital. The radio station in the car played Tim McGraw's Don't Take the Girl. I reached to turn the radio off but my husband took my hand. He held it while he drove and listened to the heart-wrenching song.

It was four of the longest hours waiting while she had test after test.

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When we could finally see her, she was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She had tubes and wires coming out of every part of her tiny body.

The babies surrounding her were so much smaller. One, the one right next to her right side was a baby born to a crack addict mother. He was the size of a soda can. The doctors and nurses were the only visitors he had.

I wanted to hold him. I wanted to hold my baby. I wanted to be held. I wanted to be strong.

My husband tried not to cry as his eyes met mine. We saw fear in each other and a sadness so strong that could rip your heart clear out of your chest.

"Mommy? Why my baby titer so fat?"

Lane 1, two and a half years old was who gave me my strength. He could see beyond the tubes and monitors. Too young to understand all that was going on and too young to fear the worst, he made me realize in comparison, Lane 2 was the biggest baby in the entire NICU. Her six-pound body filled her incubator, while others took up only a fraction of space.

A day after she was born, Mr. Lane had to return to work. The family leave act had not been invented yet and he was already in trouble with his boss for taking a whole day off. He was fired upon his return.

Alone again, in the first couple of days at the NICU, while Mr. Lane pounded the pavement, looking for a new job, other parents approached me, shared their stories, and gave me more hope. They told me I was dealing with some of the best neonatologists the country had to offer. Although that was all comforting, I just wanted to hold my baby.

Mr. Lane found a job with our brother in-law and started work immediately. He worked really long hours to prove himself. The stress was relieved somewhat because we weren't going to lose much income in an already difficult time, but his schedule, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. left little room for our family.

At 3 a.m. I walked out of the pumping room, where moms went to stimulate milk production. I saw the first mom who approached me two days earlier. She was sitting on the floor, arms over her head, crying into her knees. I sat next to her, wrapped my arm around her shoulders and tried not to cry.

Her little boy was going to be two months old and never left the hospital. In his short life, he had four brain surgeries, two heart surgeries, and a kidney transplant. An infection took over and he was gone. I cradled that lady in my arms on the floor for what seemed like hours.

A grief counselor arrived, sleepy eyed, briefcase in hand, a box of tissue under his arm, he reached for her hand and led her to a little family room. I don't know her name or her son's name. But I will never forget them.

Three days later, all tests were in, Lane 2 didn't have what the doctors initially thought. She had pneumonia, and an Rh incompatibility (hemolytic) and best of all she was going to make it. It was also the day I got to hold her again.

I sat in a rocking chair next to her incubator, holding her, smelling her, rocking her, rubbing her head and face, kissing her little hands and never wanting that moment to end.

That night, when the nurse finally pried my baby girl from my arms, they took her off of the ventilator. The sound of my baby crying for the first time was music to my ears and I cried with her. And then I laughed at myself.

The fourth day, because of the blood issue, she became jaundice. They put little Velcro stickers on her temples, and little cloth sunglasses on her little wrinkled orange face. She looked like George Hamilton.

Finally, a week after she was born, she was able to come home. It was the longest and worst week of my life, but she was worth it!

She now stands as tall as the bridge of my nose, even when she isn't wearing those horrendous clogs she loves so much.

Happy birthday to my baby girl!