September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2011: Our Story
11 September 2011
Our 9/11 "where were you when ..." story goes this way (and it's long, just forewarning):
We were living in Panama City, Florida, at the time. I was eight months' pregnant with Chloë Raine, with an extreme case of polyhydramnios going on. So we were headed, on 9/7/01, to Pensacola for a 4D-level ultrasound to find out exactly what was happening there and make sure Baby Girl Odette was fine.
Along the way, I writhed in agony over each and every fine bump in the road as Rob drove the three hours to Sacred Heart Women's Hospital in P'cola. It got worse as the trip progressed, and by the time we got to the hospital for my test, I was half-crying, half-screaming in agony.
Fast-forwarding through the stress of not knowing where to go and being brought all over the hospital while the wheel of the wheelchair rubbed against and burnt my thigh, all the while with me hollering and moaning in severe pain, we finally ended up in the L&D ward for Maternal-Fetal Medicine patients. Basically, I was a high-risk pregnancy without being aware of it, for several reasons: My weight was high, we had the polyhdramnios, I had developed pre-eclampsia but NOT been told about it, and Chloë's triple-screen test had come back with a high risk indicator for Down Syndrome.
Anyway, we got to L&D, and by that point, my blood pressure was so high, and I was shaking badly. They were doing everything in their power to calm me down, and I overheard someone tell someone else (maybe I'm the "someone else," I can't even remember anymore) that I was on the verge of having a major stroke that could be deadly. So things were quite serious, you could say.
I had about 24 people, including the janitor I think, reach up into my cervix and push through to check on things. At one point, they decided to break my stubborn amniotic sac, and holy crap, that hurt. Not only that, but there was SO much extra fluid that the staff of this teaching hospital laughed as they had never seen such an amount come out, and it flooded the floor all around my bed. I remember everyone calling for "Towels! More towels!" It even splashed the feet of Rob, who was holding my hand and standing near my head.
When the rush of fluid poured out of me, it dragged Chloë's infant hand out with it, so that when they checked me again, they felt her hand instead of the tip of her head, as things should be. So now I had complicated presentation on top of everything else! With that, the severe pre-eclampsia, and the determination that my placenta had abrupted after one long, continuous contraction on the drive to the hospital, a decision was made that I needed to have her by emergency C-section. I was devastated, having had my birth plan written up for months, and it didn't include no damn surgery!
(An emergency c/s is pretty much a slice-and-dice operation, and the focus is obviously more on getting the baby out and keeping her and the mother safe and healthy, rather than on having a pretty scar. And I've had three emergency sections now, plus a hysterectomy, plus gastric bypass surgery. Not that you asked - but my abdomen is basically one big scar now. It looks awesome.)
So we readied me for surgery as fast as possible, and when Rob was let into the O.R., I was singing "Come Sail Away" to him for reasons I can't explain, other than that I was high on meds by that point and it was one of the songs he sang/played for me during our brief courtship, being a Sailor in the US Navy and all.
I have to admit, also, to being disappointed I was having my baby for my 25th birthday, because all I really wanted to do for my birthday was not give birth but go swimming! With the polyhydramnios, I was freaking e-NOR-mous, and the only time I was comfortable was when I was swimming in the base pool. I even asked the surgeons, during the surgery, if I could go swimming the next day. Their answer came in the form of chuckles and guffaws. I easily guessed that meant it was a big, fat "no." Dammit.
Anyway, moving along. The surgery progressed rapidly, and Rob looked over the hidey-sheet they put up so Mom can't see anything, and he saw lots and lots of blood all over the place. I think that will stick with him; not sure it traumatized him, but it definitely made an impact on him. When they pulled Chloë out of me, she dipped her head back and gulped in some of the fluid, which was not supposed to happen. Uh-oh. I'm unclear on whether that's what led to her subsequent breathing problems, but they had to put her on O2 for a while to get her to breathe normally. I can't remember the exact numbers, but her APGARs were low to medium. She was not a healthy baby.
They brought her over to me, and I had just enough chance to see how freaking cute she was - especially her tiny nose, I noticed - before I started to barf all over her. They whisked her away to get her clean and then took her down to the NICU, where she remained for ten days. Meanwhile, I was sewn up and brought out to recovery, where my blood pressure continued to be sky-high. I was one stressed-out and fearful Mama!
I'll skip over my own recovery mostly, but Chloë was in the NICU for a week and a half with one problem developing after another. At first, it was the breathing issue I mentioned. Then, she refused to eat. I tried nursing her, and she just didn't "get" it. I was pumping away, but my milk didn't come in for 10 days, so they insisted on giving her bottles of formula which, again, greatly upset me. When they gave her a pacifier, too, I flipped out on them, having done my reading and research on nipple confusion. Argh! I was adamant that she would be a breastfed baby, and this was especially aggravating to me. Anyway.
At another point, she developed fluid outside her lungs, and they were going to have to do surgery for that. Then that cleared up, miraculously and through the many prayers we had for her, by the next day. The following day, it was determined that she had a messed-up shunt in her heart, whereby the blood wasn't flowing properly through her body. They were going to do surgery on that, the next day. Can you imagine? Her parents were now 25 and 29, young enough to be terrified about her baby. At one point, I asked a nurse, "Is my baby going to die?!" and was relieved when the answer was no, she would be all right. But it was an extremely stressful time in our lives.
Meanwhile, four days into this huge, personal ordeal for our own family, September 11th came along. You all know what happened that day.
We did not, not at first. See, after it was determined we would be spending some time in Pensacola for Chloë's sake, Rob asked one of his colleagues to check into our house and look after our beloved dog and cat. Well, this particular guy, Z, was never able to get INTO our house, and so our pets had been locked in their cages with no food, water, or potties for four straight days! Upon finding this out, my blood pressure went through the roof again. I was certain they were dead. Freak out was my main response...
Then, Z told Rob to turn on the news and see what was happening. At that point, the North Tower of WTC had just been hit, so we all still didn't know what was going on. I was lying in my hospital bed, Rob next to me, and Baby Chloë down the hall in the NICU, when we watched the events unfold. I was transfixed. Utterly immobile. What the hell?! What was going on?
Then the phone calls started. Rob was in the Navy (still is), so everyone wanted to know what this would mean for him, as far as a deployment or what kind of duty, etc. He never did deploy and was put on security duty for several month after that, so thankfully I had him home with me while we were adjusting to life with a semi-sick little baby. (She still never wanted to eat at first, and then when she did come around and start nursing, she didn't want to stop! BUT, she had major reflux and would projectile vomit at least a dozen times a day, so she didn't gain any weight. We had to have weight checks done on her twice a week, and it was months and months before she regained her birth weight of 7 lbs and then hit the 10-lb mark...)
And finally, a couple days later, I found out that my boss from my law firm, where I'd worked until I got married, and who was like a second father to me, had dropped dead while watching the news of the attacks, on September 11th. I cried for days over that. I loved that man. He was wonderful to me. If Sophia had been a boy, her middle name would have been his...
That's our story for September 11, 2001. For this anniversary, ten years later, I will be remembering all of that (well, I just did, didn't I?) as well as our country pulling together. I will remember all of the commercials with people from around the U.S and, indeed, the globe, saying, "I am a New Yorker," and I will remember the feeling of shame I felt that everyone was so focused on NY and that the Pennsylvania crashed flight and the Pentagon flight were somewhat ignored and forgotten by the media, it seemed like.
But mostly, I will remember how, as the TV showed clips and ongoing coverage of the horrific attacks, our country banded together and showed unity for the first time in... maybe ever? And I will remember as well the fear of, "What kind of world have I brought my baby into?!" that I had for a long time.
We don't have television service, so I will not be watching coverage of that day, but I don't need to. You see, I really AM a New Yorker, and I spent a lot of time in that city throughout my childhood, and the World Trade Center towers were common sights for me then. And with their disappearance came shock and many other emotions too fragile for me to even name. We're all New Yorkers - no, we're all AMERICANS - on this day, and we will never forget.
God Bless you all and keep you safe, on this day, and always.