After a few weeks as a permanent fixture in the antepartum ward, and after more bio-physical sonograms than I can recall, the day came when Eliza had to be delivered. The blood flow to her brain was too restricted and her life was at risk. At 1 pm my OB called to say that I would have a c-section that day. Although I knew this was coming sooner rather than later, it actually took me by suprise since I had really convinced myself that since I was feeling better, I would make it to 30 weeks. Pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome can be deceiving. You would assume that you would feel awful, but that is not always the case, and since I felt reasonably well I was really shocked by the news of my impending c-section.
Although I was 26 weeks and 4 days pregnant, Eliza was the size of a 24 weeker due to the IUGR. She was delivered on March 15, 2006 at 10:52 pm. She weighed 1 pound 4 ounces and was 11.5 inches long. I heard her cry and saw her tiny, tiny face after she was all bundled up for just a few seconds. My cousin, who was there with me for the delivery, told me how "great" Eliza looked for a micro-preemie. I wanted to believe her because she does have a wealth of knowledge and experience as a NICU nurse, but all I could think was "she has to be kidding, nothing this small can survive." It was another 14 hours before I saw Eliza again.
My mother and I stayed in the recovery room till dawn when I was moved to my room, a private room near the NCCU which spared me having to listen to the joyful sounds of the parents of the healthy full term babies. I don't think anything could have prepared me for how tiny Eliza was. My hand could cover her entire body. She was intubated, her skin was almost burgundy, she had a PICC line, her eyes were covered to protect them from the billi-light and lines were coming from her abdomen. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why these lines were coming from her naval, until the nurse explained that they place lines in the umbilical arteries and veins since they can't put an IV in a baby this small. The nurses assured me that Eliza was "doing well" and all I could think was if this was "doing well" I would hate to see their idea of "not well."
Later that morning one of the neonatologists came to see me. This was the first of many times I heard the "there will be good days and bad days" speech, a speech I came to hate over time. Before Eliza was born one of the other neonatologists had spoken with me about what to expect and had estimated that 26 to 27 weekers have about an 80% chance of survival. 80% hadn't sounded too bad. So when this new neonatologist came in after Eliza was born and told me she had a 50% chance of surviving I was kind of outraged ... how dare he take away that precious 30% chance of survival! As the weeks progressed though I came to really appreciate his honesty about Eliza's condition. It is too overwhelming so soon after delivery to hear the litany of things that can, might or will go wrong but you have no choice but to listen. You are forced from the very outset to make a multitude of decisions about your child's care, this at a time when other parents are simply trying to decide what to name their baby.
And so began Eliza's 100 days in the NCCU, some of them good days and some of them bad days.
Photo: Eliza Grace 4 Days Old