Friday, May 13, 2011

Insides Out

My scar still hurts sometimes. The one from the c-section. Although, to be more specific, I should say that one of my scars hurts. There are five—one for each layer that the surgeons have to cut through to reach the baby and avoid cutting through other things—such as your bladder.

I am often amazed at the nonchalance at which c-sections are sometimes viewed. Almost as a convenience because you can schedule them. Never mind the recovery time and the risk involved. Five layers of stitches!

Of course, there are many women who have no choice. For their safety—or, as in our case, for the baby’s/ies’ safety—that’s just the way it’s gotta be. And I certainly understand that. Just as in our case, the best of course of action was to keep our babies in plastic boxes for a couple of months. But just because our babies turned out “okay” (if you don’t think about the teeth part), doesn’t mean that a six-month pregnancy is the optimal way to go.

This morning one of my internal scars deep, deep inside, the one that has always bothered me the most, felt puckered and tucked. I can feel it when I run my hand along it. It’s several inches above the scar that is visible from the outside.

Matt remembers that day differently than I do, of course. Rushing to the hospital from work, arriving in time to see me wheeled into Labor & Delivery, barely having enough time to call my parents (the people taking care of Chiara that day) before the surgery began. While I was in my moments of Zen, he was trying to put on scrubs a million sizes too big. I couldn’t see what was going on, but he could. He said they put my guts right there on the table. Well, maybe not on the table, but they were outside my body, a big jumble of them. Some of my blood squirted out and landed on his shoe and for days afterwards, he’d look at it and remember seeing that side of me that he had never seen before (the inside). Much like when we went to Rome the year before and he spent the next week at work looking at his shoes, looking at the dust from the Coliseum—real Roman dust here in Mountain View!

For me it felt exactly like two pairs of hands rummaging through your insides looking for a couple of babies on the run.

My guts were touched. They saw the light of day. How weird. They were handled and juggled and (carefully?) put back. I wonder if my organs have fingerprints on them, a frontier where no person had gone before and traces left behind, like those astronaut footprints on the moon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Letter to Parents of Micro Preemies

(This is just a rough draft of something I might say to a parent who’s about to deliver a micro-preemie)
Dear Parent,

My twin boys were born at Alta Bates at just 25 weeks’ 3 days’ gestation. Prior to that, I spent 8 days in the antepartum unit. During that time, my obstetrician asked the doctors who care for premature babies to talk to me.

My husband and I had very different attitudes about how we wanted to receive information. I wanted information on a “need to know” basis, based on what was happening with my particular babies, not what might happen to a baby similar to mine.

I don’t know what you’re going through, but I know what I went through.

If you’re a parent of a preemie, this is what I want you to know:
I want you to know that they have perfectly shaped fingernails.

I want you to know that it is possible to feel love for something that doesn’t look like a baby.

I want you to know that when they cry, it squeaks and it breaks your heart.

That sometimes they grab your finger like they know who you are.

That sometimes they look like they’re in pain.

That sometimes they look like they’ll never get better.

That sometimes they are more resilient than you can ever imagine is humanly possible.

If you’re a parent of a preemie, this is what you need to know:
You need to know that you might have to hear the same information 4 or 5 times before it sinks in.

You need to know that you might have to make work sacrifices that you didn’t think were possible.

You need to know what kind of things will help you during stressful situations.

You need to know that your mental well being can affect your physical well being and even the well being of your baby.

You need to know that sometimes more information makes you feel even worse.

You need to know that sometimes ignoring information can leave you unprepared.

You need to know that, whatever happens, this experience will change your life forever. Now that I am on the other side, I feel that I have a wisdom, a patience, a reverence for life, and intense feeling of happiness and gratitude that I never imagined were possible.

You need to know that not everyone feels this way.