Rachel S. Heslin
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Thanks for all the congratulations and well wishes! Shawn, Hunter and I are adjusting, learning as we go. I'll probably be posting pictures within the next few days.

In the meantime, here's the full story of why I was in the hospital for almost a week. Special note to Mike Jasper: what happened to me was unusual, so don't panic.

When I first started cramping the morning of Sunday, May 17, I thought it was constipation. After all, I hadn't had any of the precursor symptoms. Eventually, I noticed that the pains kept going away and coming back, but they seemed irregular, so I assumed it was Braxton-Hicks ("false labor.") Just in case, I took a hot shower, went online and paid all the bills due in the next couple of weeks, called Shawn (who was gaming with friends) to give him an update, and asked my cousin, Erik, to give me a ride to the hospital to get checked out. Grandma came along for moral support.

They said I was dilated to 1 cm. I fully expected to be sent home, but by the time they were done running tests and I'd walked all the way to ultrasound twice (I'd forgotten my water bottle the first time), I'd dilated to over 3cm, and I was admitted.

Now that I'd actually experienced contractions, I told the nurse that, although our Birth Preferences sheet (a list we'd typed up saying how we felt about pain management and other factors affecting delivery and birth) said that I'd rather not have an epidural, I'd changed my mind. My exact words were, "When I get to 4, plug me in."

Shawn arrived in record time, miraculously avoiding both accidents and cops. There was a bit of excitement when the epidural was administered and my blood pressure bottomed out, but after two bags of IV fluid and 50 ccs of ephedrine (!), I stabilized, and things became much more comfortable.

Grandma and Erik had gone home when Shawn showed up, but my parents arrived to keep us company. I napped intermittently, Mom knitted, Shawn and Dad puttered on their laptops, and we chatted. Mom and Shawn would cheer me on as the monitor showed stronger contractions, and I found it weird that I knew when they occurred because my heartrate and breathing changed and I could feel Hunter's reactions, but I couldn't feel the contractions themselves.

How I love thee, Epidural!

About 11pm, the doctor was concerned that I wasn't progressing quickly enough, so he started a slow drip of just enough pitocin to kick me into high gear.

At 1:30am, I was ready. We evicted the parentals, I started pushing, and at 1:56am, Hunter David Heslin was born.

That's when things started to get interesting.

Shawn was nearby with Hunter as they cleaned him and checked his vitals. There was something about the little one's heartrate that, although not of great concern, was enough that they wanted to take him over to the nursery to check him before handing him back to us. Shawn brought over this little bundle of swaddling with the most adorable little face peeking out. I was in love. They took him off, checked him out, and everything was fine.

I was another matter.

Normally, the placenta slides out within fifteen minutes of a child's birth. Mine refused to detach from the uterus. We think some surgery I had back in '97 might have changed the texture of the uterine lining, causing the placenta to adhere.

After struggling with it for half an hour, the doctor asked if I'd be willing to undergo a minor operation that would require general anesthesia but would allow him to remove the placenta. Although disappointed that I'd miss that crucial first hour of bonding, I signed a bunch of forms, and they wheeled me into the OR.

They were able to remove the placenta, but regardless of how much gauze they packed me with or HemAbate they gave me, I wouldn't stop bleeding.

I don't know at what point "excessive bleeding" becomes "internal hemorrhaging," but when I'd gone through three liters of blood (yes, liters -- thank God I'm AB+) and they realized that I was gushing just as quickly as they were pumping it in, they woke me long enough to sign a consent form for an emergency hysterectomy and be kissed repeatedly by my frantic husband before sending me back into the OR.

When they tell you to keep your Birth Preferences flexible, I guess they weren't kidding.

In the final count, I'm down one uterus but still have an ovary (I lost the other to a cyst when I was 13) and cervix, and both Hunter and I are alive and well. I think I came out ahead.

The trauma of what I'd been through didn't hit me for a few days -- after all, I'd been doped up for most of it. Shawn, on the other hand, was a complete wreck. It was so goddamn unfair that he'd just been handed this amazing little boy only to be immediately faced with the possibility of losing the woman he loved. He says he burned up a lot of prayer channels during those endless hours of uncertainty.

My parents are thankful that I chose to give birth in a hospital full of monitors and equiment and competent staff (special thanks to Drs. Matuga and Le, without whom I probably would not be posting this entry.) I'd briefly considered a home birth but decided against it because, just in case something did go wrong, I wanted to be somewhere they could do something about it. I'd say that was a good call.

As for myself.... A few weeks ago, Dad and I were talking about the difference between gratitude and appreciation. Thinking of our conversation in the days that followed it, I realized that, probably because I was young and arrogant, I was very appreciative of things, but gratitude was a foreign concept to me. It was similar to the way that, although I had no problem having respect for others, it was difficult for me to feel admiration, as though that somehow lowered my self.

So much for young and arrogant.

I am so very grateful for my life, for my husband, and for this beautiful child our love has brought into this world.

Life is a miracle.

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