I knew the moment I stood up it wasn’t good – my water broke at 4:30 a.m. on December 23rd with still six weeks left in my pregnancy, my water broke. We JUST moved to Boston from Manhattan. We still had yet to set up the nursery, buy the car seat and the co-sleeper and I was desperately looking forward to my first ever prenatal message scheduled for later that day.
I know what you are thinking the pregnancy and birth of a first child never goes as how you think it is going to, but you see I’m a planner and I come from a long line of planners – My mother is a planner, her mother is a planner and her mother an even bigger planner! So it is not a surprise that I had a plan for the last 6 weeks in the pregnancy– I’d set up the nursery, have two baby showers, wrap up my consulting projects and sit on my couch for the last two week with my latte watching reruns of the Office!
I also had a birth plan! I wanted to move around the room and hallways, bounce on a birthing ball and spend time soaking in the shower in an intimate environment. Instead I was hooked up to an IV, administered Petocin, confined to 3 feet from my bed, given an internal fetal monitor, required to use an oxygen mask during delivery with a team of 2 nurse, 1 doctor and 4 NICU doctors in my room.
After 2 hours of pushing, 12 hours of labor and a lot of petocin, Charlotte Atwood Carr arrived! The doctor held her up – It is a Girl” he said. She was quickly handed her to the NICU team., administer her APGAR, before handing her to me. I looked down at my beautiful tiny baby girl and whispered – I can’t believe you are here. I gave her a quick kiss on the head and suddenly felt the cold hand of the doctor taking her from me. They were concerned she may start grunting and took her to the NICU. Shortly after, John rushed downstairs to tell my family that Charlotte was born, the doctor finished the post-delivery, the nurses left… and suddenly, I was all alone. No baby, no husband, no family, no doctors, no nurses, no NICU team, nobody.
Sitting in the hospital bed alone for 20 minutes felt like eternity. All I wanted to do was rush hold my daughter again, but all I could do was wait. I read somewhere that “Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.” At that moment, on that day patience was forced upon me.
Later that evening after several hours, I finally got to see Charlotte. We spent an entire hour with her. It felt like seconds. I must have asked every NICU doctor what did I do wrong to cause this and when will I be able to take Charlotte home? To which they all replied “Sometimes these things just happen” and “ She will come home when she is ready” I was so envious of all the moms on my maternity floor that had full term babies and were experiencing their first few hours with their newborns. Instead mine was alone in an incubator bed with a feeding tube in her nose, heart and oxygen probes on her chest and feet and IVs in her tiny hand. Rather than intimate moments between mother and daughter, for weeks my moments were filled with shiny metal beds, flashing lights, programmed visits and limited skin to skin contact.
When I left the hospital on Christmas day without Charlotte I felt this profound emptiness. Intellectually, I knew she would be just fine, but emotionally I was a mess. The next day as we started our daily routine of visiting the our daughter, my came along to provide support – that only a mother can – on our way into the NICU she gave me a tender embrace and said “ Alison God only give you what you can handle. Sometimes you wish he didn’t trust you so much” I smiled it was one of her favorite quotes. She was right. We were lucky at 5lb 2oz Charlotte was the MOOSE of the NICU – she just needed a few more weeks to grow and I needed to have patience to let her do so. After meeting her neighbors, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that she wasn’t fighting for survival like so many of them.
You see, my journey into motherhood, did not go as planned and in the end it really didn’t matter because I got to spent 6 extra weeks with my daughter and I learned the true meaning of patience along the way.