EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO ( PLUS THREE DAYS)
BY JENNIFER RAWLINGS
I have given birth to four fabulous children, and I often joke about that the fact that the experience I had while giving birth to them is permanently reflected in their personalities.
Courtney was so big when she was born that she broke my tailbone. Anyone who has every met my wonderful daughter Courtney can attest to the fact that she has been busting my ass ever since.
Joshua was upside and backwards during labor, so I had to have a c-secton. Nothing has changed with my Joshy over the years- he has always brilliantly marched backwards and sideways to the beat of his own trombone.
I was in intensive care in the hospital for nearly three months before Elijah was born,he was born two-and –a half months early and weighed only four pounds. He required twenty-four hour attention and lots of nurturing. All that intensive care and nurturing produced an amazing young man with lots of compassion and is the most rationale of the bunch.
Noah has always been my wild card. I will never forget the day Noah was born and how the delivery itself changed my life forever.
I am a true believer that one way or another we always get what we say in life- weather it is positive or negative.
I had always said that I wanted to have four kids and adopt two. I have four kids, and a step-son and I definitely count a husband as a child- so I got exactly what I had spoken about- despite the fact that I quite saying I wanted to have four kids and adopt two after I had my second child.
The year I delivered my third child started off very exciting.
There was a huge earthquake in Los Angeles on January 17th.
I was home alone with my two children not yet pregnant with my third when the earth shook so violently that the refrigerator flew forward and tipped over onto the counter.
I ran over piles of broken glass to get to my two children ,still in cribs, while the earth was still shaking.
Everything was pitch black as I huddled under the doorframe with a child in each arm.
An hour passed before the sun began peeking thru the windows and I noticed blood streaming from my feet and legs.
Staring at the pool of blood on the floor, the broken dishes and glass covering the entire house I thought to myself “ I need a cup of coffee, this is going to be a really long day”
I cleaned up the house while it was still daylight, the power was out and would remain so for days. When I finally collapsed into bed that night with a child on either side of me I thought “well it’s only January 17, but at least the worst part of the year is over.”
Never ever say anything like this….even to yourself.
In April I found out I was pregnant with my third child and I cried.
I suppose I should say they were tears of joy, but that would be a BIG FAT LIE.I was 26 years old with a three year old and a six month old…isn’t that enough.
I had an uneventful pregnancy and by the time I went into labor I was looking forward to bringing child number three into the world.
On December 5th, I went to the hospital at about 5:30 in the morning to give birth. I had already done this twice before. I wasn’t scared at all, I was excited.
We passed hour after hour in the in the labor and delivery room watching old movies and hoping the contractions would pick up the pace.
Fifteen hours later at eight o’clock that night I still hadn’t had the baby.
I was in excruciating pain despite having already been given an epidural- my contractions were going nowhere.
The pain had gotten so bad I asked Brian to come over and hold my hand-something was wrong. The nurse came to check me- and left saying that the baby was still hours away.
The pain was so intense I could hardly breathe.
“Please squeeze my hand tighter”
Moments later the little color that I had left my body and I was paler than a sheet that I was laying on.
A first year resident at Cedar Sinai Hospital came running into my room because he had seen some numbers on the “medical thingys” that concerned him.
Young Dr. Cook took one look at me and asked “ Have you had any surgeries recently?”
I thought for a moment, I wasn’t sure if fifteen months counted as “recent” but I replied “ Yes, I had a C-section fifteen months ago.”
Dr. Cook immediately unplugged my delivery bed from the wall and started running me down the hallway to surgery screaming “ She’s crashing, she’s crashing we gotta take the baby now, we gotta take the baby now ,she’s crashing”
I remember the run down the hallway-it was like I was watching someone else about to die. The interesting thing about nearly dying is that you don’t feel it. You watch it happen. There is absolutely no pain once you start to let go of the hand of life. You don’t feel the transition. Life slips thru your hands like a silk scarf dropped in the rain. Unnoticed at first, the scarf sops up the rainwater and disappears into sludge. The scarf is forgotten.
From the time I became “super white” to the time I was in the surgery room only a few moments had passed.
Yet I was so weak I couldn’t even move my hand.( I discovered later that the reason I was so weak is because I had lost 3.5 liters of blood and had almost bled to death)
“Poor thing, all this commotion over this blond girl” I thought floating above my pale body.
In mere seconds the room was full of nurses , doctors, and neo natal specialist. I remember looking at the baby’s heart monitor that was still attached to me, during a normal delivery it registers between 120-160.The heart monitor read 12
I heard the doctors and nurses screaming orders and responses to one another. I recognized the urgency in their voices. Someone in the operating room asked me if I could help move myself onto the operating table. I wanted to, I knew I was about to die, but I was out of strength and couldn’t move to help my baby or myself.
“We gotta get the baby out, get the baby out, she’s crashing”
“Get the baby now!”
“She’s going, the baby’s heart is gone. Get the baby out”
Luckily, I already had an epidural from earlier that night because was no time for prep. The doctor poured Betadine on my stomach and the baby was out.
Brian was in the room when they took Noah out of my abdomen instead of my womb. My uterus had ruptured. I could hear the Neo-natal team scurrying behind me giving orders.
“No heart beat”
I was so weak I couldn’t even move my head to look.
“Is the baby okay…is the baby okay?” I asked
He lied and said “ The baby is just fine , he looks great…don’t worry.
Noah was purple and blue when he was born. His heart wasn’t beating, and the neo-natal team had to give him cardiac resuscitation. When His APGAR score at birth was 1.
Had Dr.Cook , a man I had never met before, hesitated for even a moment Noah would be dead.A couple minutes more and I would have bled to death in one of the best hospitals in the country.
Noah spent a few days in Neo Natal intensive care and then he came home with me.I was still so weak when I came home from the hospital that I could not pick up a cup of coffee.With all the blood loss a cup of coffee was simply too heavy.
My wild card Noah LITERALLY broke the mold the day he was born and has continued to do so everyday for the last eighteen years.
I felt so blessed when I came home form the hospital. I had my son, and he was a miracle. I heard horror stories from my pediatrician about how lucky we were.Usually with a uterine rupture the baby dies, often the mother dies also.And in almost every circumstance the mother has to have her uterus removed.
None of these things happened to me.
I had my family and my insides were intact.
For most people, one life-saving miracle is enough to see the awesome purpose in each and every person. Maybe it’s the hair color or maybe it’s because I’m a little bit of a drama queen. I had to have another life-saving miracle to even start down the path of getting my shit together.
A couple of years after Noah was born, I found out that the impossible had happened; I was pregnant with my FOURTH child. Number four from the women who barely survived number three. To this day I still can’t believe I even got pregnant.
I had a new OB/GYN by this time, mainly because the previous doctor almost killed me. My new doctor flipped out when I told him what had happened with Noah. The doctor had tears in his eyes and said “ Jennifer you can’t have a baby after a ruptured uterus, it simply never happens. I’m nervous, and I want you to also see a specialist “
The first twenty weeks of a forty-week pregnancy went pretty smoothly. On November 12, 1997 everything changed. I was only half way through my pregnancy and I was having contractions. I went to the doctor.
My OB was visibly worried and sent me to immediately to the specialist. The perinatologist did a level 2 ultra-sound, made two phone calls and then came and sat next to me, placing his hand on my shoulder. His eyes were firm as he spoke. “We deliver about 500 babies a month at Cedars and I have been in practice for a long time. There has never been a case where there has been a ruptured uterus followed by a healthy delivery. I can see through the wall of your uterus. It is transparent. If we don’t terminate this pregnancy you are going to die. And so is the baby.”
Calling upon all of my medical training and expertise I have as a stand-up comic and mother, I responded. “Well, that’s not going to happen so we better get a new plan together.”
He placed me in a wheel chair and insisted that I needed to be immediately admitted to the hospital. (The perinatologist office was in one of the towers at Ceders) I told him that I needed to move my car first or it would be towed, he ignored me and pushed me towards the hospital tower.
I knew things were bad when they took me straight to the step-down intensive care unit and started giving me medicine and a hospital bed BEFORE I filled out the insurance forms and they copied my insurance card.
I went into the hospital on November 12, 1997 and didn’t leave until January 26,1998. I spent almost three months at Cedars. Elijah was delivered two and a half months early.I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and two of my children’s birthdays there. Everyday, the hospital staff was surprised I hadn’t croaked. I was given intravenous medicine in my thigh most of the time and had a hep-loc in my veins in case I required emergency surgery.I set the record for the longest patient ever in the ante-partum ward at Cedars-Sinai.
Brian and the kids came to visit on most days, which was no easy task since this was the winter of El Nino and it was pouring down rain everyday.My friends chipped in too. Ed and Rossina brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner to the hospital. My friend Tania kept my taste buds from being bored with weekly offerings of spicy tuna rolls and shrimp tempura rolls from Matsuhisha and my own flannel sheets. Chris brought me Oscar nominated movies and a laptop. My sweet friend Ann drove from Malibu in the rain to bring me beautiful silk nightgowns and silk floral robes to wear. We put up a real Christmas tree and made the best of it. Santa delivered all the toys for my three kids to Cedar -Sinai that year. My agents even donated blood to store for me in case I needed it. Between my friends and my family I had company for much of my stay. But at night, when everyone had gone home and I was all alone, I would lay in the hospital bed and cry.
On January 17, 1998 my son Elijah was delivered via C-section. He was born at 30 weeks and weighed only four pounds. He stayed in intensive care for 8 days and for the first month I took him to the doctor every morning to make sure he was gaining weight and able to maintain his body temperature.
I am a very lucky woman and I know it. I am so thankful for what happened to me with both Noah and Elijah. It changed the way I saw myself in the world and it changed the way I see my role as a mother. Of course, I’m supposed to clothe my kids , feed them frozen pizza, nag them about their homework and try my best to keep them from needing long-term therapy. But I am also supposed to encourage their dreams and goals, which meant I needed to get back to my dreams and goals. I needed to live my words instead of just reciting them.
Somehow in the land of ‘make believe’ Los Angeles, I also needed my kids to see that they are very special EVEN MEDICAL MIRACLES but they are NOT the center of the universe and doing without a new ipad or cell phone is not quite on par with the suffering that goes on in most of the world.