~Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Worst Day of My Life - Part 3

I woke up completely naked on a brightly lit operating room table with my hands stretched out to either side of me, cuffed to the table. Some describe it as the Christ pose, but to me it felt like the execution pose. I was violently shivering but I couldn't do anything about it because I was strapped down.

"How long was that operation?" I heard someone, perhaps a surgical technician, ask.

The answer was 45 minutes. That's what the doctor told me when they wheeled me to the OR. I rolled an eye to the clock on the wall. The math didn't add up.

"Two-and-a-half hours," someone else I couldn't see answered.


But before that emergency C-section, I sat there, horrified as the coughing doctor sewed up my tear in the hospital bed instead of the operating table. She kept applying pressure. "I can't stop the bleeding and the skin is falling off when I'm trying to sew it up." Then she ducked her head into her shoulder so she could cough again.

My mother, who has had severe bladder-related problems her entire adult life due to having children and then a bad sew-job, squeaked, "This isn't going to affect her long term, is it?"

"We'll see."

I turned to the anesthesiologist standing at my shoulder. She seemed like a nice lady. "Excuse me, usually when I go into surgery I get something for anxiety," I announced.

"You seem fine," she replied.

"I'm not," I said, realizing I sound like a drug seeker. I am the opposite of a drug seeker. I avoid all opioids because they make me vomit. But the drug they give you when they wheel you to the operating room? The one that makes you really happy and carefree? I wanted that. That is the only good thing about surgery.

"It'll affect the baby," she retorted.

"Then you'll give it to me as soon as the baby's out."

She rolled her eyes.

The whole day has been miserable. First the epidural leaked all over the computer, then the doctor on call thinly tried to veil the fact she had a cold. My big ass hips, the ones my pediatrician in high school called “great birthing hips,” were not big enough for my 6-something-pound baby's head. I ripped and I'm bleeding and I have a fever and there's still no effing baby.

It was 10:30 pm on New Year's Day. The only thing I could do to salvage this experience is to give my baby a cool birthday, like New Year's Day. There was less than two hours left.

Abraham changed into scrubs and I was re-prepped for surgery for the second time within the hour. At the corner in front of the double doors to surgery, I told my mom I loved her, you know, in case. She didn’t register why I said it.

It was explained to me that most of the time spent in surgery was putting me back together as opposed to getting the baby out. A baby can be removed in a matter of minutes with what’s lovingly called a “slash and grab.” Fortunately for me, this wasn’t a life-threatening emergency C, so I would get the smaller of the potential incision sites. But because baby was so close to being born vaginally, they actually had to push him back up the birth canal so they could reach him through my abdomen.

I started screaming. “I know I’m supposed to feel pressure,” I said for the second time that night, “but I am feeling burning. It BURNS!”

“Do I need to stop?” the doctor calmly asked the anesthesiologist.

The anesthesiologist took out a clear syringe and injected it in my vein. “Nope.”

Was that my anxiety drug I asked for? Whatever it was, it helped.

The doctor announced she had the baby. The moments between that announcement and hearing him cry were the longest moments of my life. I swear it took a beat longer than normal. It took long enough for Abraham to say, “I don’t hear him?”

And then we heard it: not a baby cry, but a little duck quack. That’s what it sounded like. The nurses cleaned him up and wrapped him up and brought him over to my head. I couldn’t hold him or touch him; I could only look at this person who I’ve spent the last 9 months wondering about.

“Hello. Hi.”

People describe these grand feelings of I never knew what love was until I laid eyes on you. Not me. I was stuck in my head still wondering about him. Would he love sports like his dad? Be too sensitive like his mom? Did he look like a certain name, because we still didn’t have one for him.

And then the nurse turned to take him away for his measurements and told Abraham to follow.

“I love you,” I said because I was worried I didn’t say enough.

Behind the plastic curtain, it was time for the doctor to put me back together. Feed my intestines my back into me.

“I can’t get her uterus to fit,” she called out, frustrated. “There’s too much bleeding. I need help.”

“Am I going to die?”

Those were the last words I said.


My mother sat in the waiting room with all the other families who ended up with stories similar to mine: unplanned C-section due to abnormal labor. She watched as families who came after her left before her. One after one until she was the only one left. It was the middle of the night. She knew something wasn’t right.

She called Abraham. “Where’s Sarah?” She asked.

Abraham, who had been taking selfies with Junior, flagged a nurse. One nurse called another nurse. When he heard the tone of the conversation, he became worried.


The clock on the wall said 1:50 am. It was no longer New Year’s Day. They wheeled me into the ICU. I felt beat up, like I had gotten in a car accident that had gotten in a train wreck. Abe met me there and looked extremely worried. Junior was in the nursery.

The ICU was a big open area with curtains that separated each patient. I heard a family a few curtains away sound worried.

They gave me drugs, the really strong kind. They gave me ice for my incision site. I felt awful. I was in such generalized pain that I couldn’t pinpoint it to any specific complaint.

A nurse came in. “It’s time to feed your baby,” she announced.

What? No.

“I can’t,” I said. “I’ll be a mom tomorrow, but I am going to rest tonight.”

“Your baby hasn’t eaten the entire time he’s been alive,” she stated thinly. (I swear to God she said this.)

~Monday, June 5, 2017

The Worst Day of My Life - Part 2

"It's time to push!" the nurse exclaimed.

"Something's not right," I mumbled. The simultaneous radiating and stabbing pain was back. "I know I'm supposed to feel pressure, but this is a lot of pain," I explained.

"The epidural might have worn off. You might just have to push without the drugs," the nurse chipped.

"Um, no." And then I crossed my legs at the ankle to make my point. "You said I could get an epidural any time until the head was showing. I'll wait." I acted cool, but my mind was screaming. I had never even considered the possibility of an unmedicated birth, but that option quickly became my number one worst case scenario. I have health insurance and I am weak and I don't want to be in pain if I don't have to be.

Abraham looked at the computer I was hooked up to. "Is it supposed to be wet over here?"

The nurse checked the station. "Oh my god, the epidural is leaking all over the computer. It's not going into your back at all."

"I told you I felt pain!" I never turn down an opportunity to prove that I was right.

"The line is cracked and leaking. We'll replace it. I swear this has never happened before."

"Mmhmm." As she was mopping up the area, I wondered if I was going to be charged for the sweet, sweet drug that was spilling everywhere. Yes, I nodded to myself.

Within 5 minutes a second tube was connected and I was feeling a lot better.

I pushed three times, the number of times I said I was going to have a baby by, and nothing.

Okay, five times.


It soon became an out-of-body experience. They told me to push and I would. Then instead of pushing three times per contraction, they bumped me up to four. My mind was blank except for following instructions.

They took my temperature, and I heard the nurse say I had a fever of over 102.

Sober me would have known what this meant. I work closely with a panel of doctors of all different specialties, including one OB/GYN who was the head of his department of a local hospital. At my request, he had sat me down and told me the medical definition of abnormal labor. He showed me the graph of each phase of labor and how long has been deemed medically acceptable to be in each stage. I actually printed it and brought it with me to the hospital.

"If you are in abnormal labor, there is an increased risk of infection to both the mother and the baby," he explained to me. "That's why C-sections are done. At a certain point the risk of C-section becomes less than the risk of continuing an abnormal labor. Signs of an infection include fever."

Instead of making the connection, I vomited.

The nurse told me I had been pushing for over an hour and a half. She saw hair, she could touch it, but my baby had stopped making progress after a certain point.

"His head's getting misshapen," she explained. "He's getting a cone head. You're pushing, but he's not moving." She checked me. "Normally I can sweep my finger around a baby's head, but there's no room. His head won't fit."

"He's 6-something pounds," I said in disbelief. "He's tiny. How can he not fit?"

"It must be your anatomy," she said.

"Have you seen my hips? They were described as birthing hips since high school."

"Sometimes the outside anatomy doesn't match the inside anatomy."

"So I have big hips for no reason?"

She didn't answer me. Instead she got the doctor. Since it was New Year's Day, she appeared to be right out of medical school. She had a cold and was not wearing a surgical mask when she coughed directly into my vagina. Everybody in the room reeled in disgust. The nurse conferred with her, and they had me push for another half hour.

"His head won't fit."

"So you say."

"I'm recommending a C-section. You have a fever, the baby's heart rate has been elevated, and there's no progression. You have to be prepped for surgery, and there is one person ahead of you, so it will be about 45 minutes. Just relax for now."

C-section wasn't what I wanted, but I had made my peace with it when the OB in my office explained to me why it sometimes happens. The only thing I didn't like about it was being awake. That part freaked me out.

I asked Abraham to go get my mother. An anesthesiologist came in the room and cranked up my epidural to total lower-body numbness. At least I got to keep my drugs. When she went to place the catheter, she screamed.


"What?" asked the nurse.

"The baby. I see it."

The nurse came around and looked. "He does look farther in the birth canal."

The nurse went to get the doctor again. "Let's unprep you for surgery and have you push again."

They removed the catheter and had me try again. Maybe if I push REALLY hard, this will all be over and I won't have to have surgery.

I pushed REALLY hard. No baby.

"Oh dear, you just ripped," said the doctor. "Now you need stitches before you go into surgery."

"Can't you just do all the sewing up at once?" my mom asked.

"How do you rip without a baby?" I exclaimed.

"I can't stop the bleeding," she announced.

~Monday, April 10, 2017

The Worst Day of My Life

Author's note: For every piece of advice there is on the Internet regarding anything to do with pregnancy and child-rearing, there is equal and opposite advice. It narrows down to two different schools of thought: those who treat their pregnancies naturally, and those who desire medical supervision. While I agree that pregnancy isn't an illness, it has been proven that pregnancy is inherently riskier than non-pregnancy. For this reason, I am and remain pro medical supervision. Also give me all the drugs.

The day I gave birth was the worst day of my life. "But you got a baby out of it!" the nurse justified. I don't care. Everything that I had to go through to get there was the worst thing to ever happen to me.

I was overdue and in my doctor's office. He pulled off his gloves after the examination and leaned back. "Why don't we talk in my office?"

I dressed slowly and waddled to his office down the hall. "Uh oh," Abe breathed.

"No, it's fine. We do all of our talking in his office," I explained. We took our seats.

"So you are past your due date. With your age and your gestational diabetes, you are now at an increased risk of stillbirth."

I inhaled sharply through my teeth. It wasn't anything I didn't already know--I had done my research--but hearing it acknowledged shocked me. At a certain point past your due date, your placenta breaks down and no longer delivers nutrients to your baby, causing stillbirth. Additionally with gestational diabetes, it is possible that your baby grows so big that it can outgrow the womb and die. It happened to a friend of mine. And I was not going through this, this 9 months of wrecking my body, to not get a baby out of it.

He continued. "For this reason, I am recommending for you to be induced. The bad news is that I am not working at the hospital for another week, and that is too long to allow for you to go. I won't be your doctor. Sorry." I nodded in agreement, although my mind was reeling. "How's Saturday?" he asked.

Saturday? Saturday is a week away! I burst into tears. "I don't want to be pregnant another week!" I wailed.

Abraham touched my shoulder. "Saturday is tomorrow," he said gently.

Oh! That Saturday! The one before the one next week. I laughed through my tears.

My hospital is nicknamed "The Baby Factory" because it delivers more babies per year than any other hospital in the country. We arrived at night, after having a big meal. It was New Year's Eve. The nurse wore a Happy New Year tiara as she handed me a stack of paperwork to complete. Abe stood in front of the TV, trying to find the ball drop.

"This is the best they could do for New Year's programing?" I asked. "I don't even know who these people are."

Abe shrugged.

Something wasn't right with the program; it felt off. I kept watching TV. "Abe!" I screamed, "YOU HAVE US WATCHING CARSON DALY!" I ripped the remote out of his hands. "How is that guy still a thing?" I muttered as I flipped to Ryan Seacrest.

The ball dropped and Abe pecked me on the lips. I changed the date to January 1 as I continued signing the paperwork.

The nurse missed her New Year's party as she put an IV in my hand. The vein rolled and she dug to find it. That hurt. I was fighting tears about the pain, then I was fighting tears that I was complaining about the IV when THERE'S A BABY INSIDE MY BODY THAT HAS TO COME OUT.

"It's okay," she consoled. "This really is one of the most painful parts." I'm pretty sure she was lying but it made me feel better.

She gave me the first of the induction cocktail and I went to sleep. When I woke up, my water broke. Then they started the Pitocin, which causes contractions. I slept for a few hours until I woke up in pain. I could have crawled the walls with how much pain I felt. It radiated within me and felt stabby at the same time. I cried for the second time that day until I got my first fentanyl injection. Then I texted my friends now I understood why Prince died.

I had the epidural placed by the time I had dilated to three centimeters. I certainly didn't last long. The relief I felt was glorious, and I don't understand why these are not given as soon as you walk in the door. ("Placing the needle in your back is more painful when you are not yet in other pain," the nurse explained.)

And then I slept again. They turned out the lights and I slept all afternoon. When I woke up, it was 8:00 PM and I was fully dilated.

I'm going to have the best birth story ever, I thought. I slept through labor and now I'm going to push three times and have a baby. I'm going to sit on my sofa with my baby in my arms and smugly tell people how wonderful my birth experience was. That IV in my hand really was the worst.

And that's the exact moment things went to shit.

~Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ways I have Already Ruined this Baby's Life: Continued

For the first 28 weeks of pregnancy, I was the picture of health. Despite being high risk with my Advanced Maternal Age (eye roll) and complete lack of thyroid, I was having the most average pregnancy possible. It seemed like all of my friends were in scary, high-risk-in-that-they-were-life-threatening pregnancies that involved specialists, bed rest, and hospital stays, I was firmly in the camp of No News Is Good News.

Then I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The diagnosis was a complete shock to me. I didn't have any of the symptoms: rapid weight gain, swelling, etc. In my picture of health, I was second trimester and had only gained four pounds! FOUR POUNDS. I was eating no more than I was pre-pregnancy. Sure, type 2 diabetes runs rampantly in my father's side of the family--in that everyone has it--but it was going to skip me because I am normal.

GD is the most inconvenient of diagnoses. There's nothing truly wrong with you: your placenta just makes your pancreas a little sluggish. It's temporary. All you have to do is CHECK YOUR BLOOD SUGAR 4 TIMES A DAY AND FOLLOW THIS SUPER SIMPLE DIET THAT INCLUDES NO FUN AT ALL. Remember using pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever you want? Well not you, missy.

Long-story short: I rocked it. I followed the diet to a T and remained in my assigned blood sugar levels, which I would like to add are way below type 2 diabetes levels.

Me: Hey Dad, what does your fasting level have to be in the morning?

Dad: Anything under 130 is good for me. Why, what does yours have to be?

Me: (grumbles) 95.

Dad: What a conspiracy. I wouldn't even have diabetes if my fasting was 95.

I'm now including a list of food I haven't eaten in the last 80 days because of this bullshit diagnosis because it makes me so sad:

  • Hamburgers
  • French fries
  • Pizza
  • Milkshakes
  • Ice cream
  • Chinese food
  • Chips, any kind
  • Cupcakes, at any baby shower, including my own
  • Cookies
  • Rice
  • Cereal
  • Hot dogs, not that I've wanted to eat them, but I can't
  • Pasta, any kind
  • Fruit, FRUIT
  • Milk, MILK
  • Juice
  • Smoothies, any kind, including the gross vegetable kind
  • Tonic water
  • Gatorade
  • Muffins, including English
  • Bagels
  • Pastries, including doughnuts, which has made me cry more than once
  • Pumpkin coffee
  • Any holiday drink at Starbucks
I would just like to point out that this is in addition to the pregnancy diet, so no sushi or alcohol or deli meat, rare steaks, etc. This is basically the biggest pain in the ass, and I am really unhappy about it. What have I been eating? A lot (A LOT) of breaded chicken. Chicken wings, chicken fingers, chicken nuggets. Some potatoes. A little Chex Mix. I am single handedly keeping the Greek yogurt business alive in Georgia, spending about $20 a WEEK in yogurt. A lot of cheese sticks, which I don't even like. If I never eat another peanut butter cracker, it will be too soon. 

But my levels have been great and the baby isn't measuring giant-sized, which is the goal. The doctor complimented me last week, telling me that I've done really great this pregnancy, and it felt like winning an award, I was so proud of myself. 

A lot of people want alcohol brought into the hospital. I asked for champagne, a milkshake, a hamburger, and a box of doughnuts.

~Friday, December 30, 2016

Ways I have Already Ruined this Baby's Life: An Incomplete List

  1. Having a due date so very close to Christmas, according to one stranger. (It seems like this one has passed.)
  2. Having an MRI (without contrast, thank god) done on my ankle during that waiting period between ovulation and a positive test.
  3. Taking ibuprofen during this same period for this same ankle. 
  4. Following the saying, "Drink until it's pink."
  5. Stopping at a friend's house in Georgia in May and not wearing any mosquito repellent. It was during the height of the Zika scare and I got eaten alive.
I was keeping this list until Harvey patted her own pregnant tummy and passed on the best advice that was given to her. "It's hard to screw up a good pregnancy," she told me. " Women don't randomly flush healthy fetuses out of their bodies. Miscarriages happen because there is something amiss with the chromosomes of the embryo. They don't develop correctly, and it becomes non-viable." So a couple of doses of ibuprofen aren't great, but it won't ruin a good thing.

~Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Baby Daddy

After I saw the faintest of pink lines, I smiled to myself and went to sleep. I did not tell Abe. Partly because it didn't feel real yet. The other reason was that we were getting up in the morning to travel to be with 26 of his closest family members for Passover, and so help me if they are the first people to know because he's too excited to keep a secret.

This plan worked well until about 7:30 in the morning when I was standing in the security line at the airport, staring at the full-body scanner. I know they say it's safe, but I also know that I've spent the last 7 years of my life working in research, and I don't know for sure whether they've done long-term studies.

I hopped on one foot to another. I didn't know what I was going to do. It would certainly be suspicious to refuse the scanner and ask for a pat down at this point in our marriage. But fate smiled at me and a metal detector line opened up as soon as I dropped my bag on the conveyor belt. (Interestingly enough, it was the only time I went through a metal detector while pregnant. At every other instance, mostly at concerts and the like, they've pulled me out of the line and ushered me to the other side, which totally reinforces my decision to skip the full-body scanner.)

And then the plan finally went to shit that same day at 4:00 pm. I went to the bathroom and saw some light, very light, spotting. Aww no, I had been pregnant for less than 24 hours. I texted a coworker and she said it could be one of three things: a chemical pregnancy, a miscarriage, or implantation spotting. Two of the three did not result in babies. I was stuck at his family's house and could no longer sneak around. My choice was to drive myself crazy or I could trust my husband and use him for support.

He was outside playing baseball in the street with his cousins. "I need to go to Target," I said,

"Sure, What do you need?" he smiled.

"Um. A pregnancy test."

His smile vanished, "Okay. Let's go."

In the car I explained the last day to him, including the 2-out-of-3 chance that I'm not pregnant after all. At Target, I looked for the tests my coworker told me to buy, the ones that are sensitive before a missed period. The exact kind escapes me now, but I remember her telling me to get the ones with the pink lines, not the blue lines.

I hemmed and hawed at the selection. "This one is $1.19 and it has pink lines," I said.

"Oh for god's sake, please don't scrimp now. I will buy the most expensive test there is," Abraham exclaimed exasperated. It was cute.

I picked a box that contained two for $7.00, and then impulsively plucked a flower for a dog collar off the clearance rack. "For the dog," I said.

Those tests came back positive too. "If you tell your family," I threatened, "I will leave you here in New Jersey."

So Abraham spent the night covertly drinking my wine during the Seder dinner. I think he enjoyed being in on the secret.

The next day we were sitting at an Italian cafe in New York City. My doctor's office finally called me back. "He doesn't see pregnant patients until they are 7.5 weeks along. You are 3 weeks and 6 days," she told me. A whole another month away.

So we never got to celebrate. We went from the scare to not even getting medical confirmation for a solid month.But I am glad I told him when I did. What's the point of being married to someone and knocked up with his baby if you can't even trust him to tell him? I guess that's my first advice to my unborn child: marry someone who will lessen your problems, not add to them.With Abraham, I can tell him anything and he listens and tries to carry some of my burden. He's a wonderful person, and I know he's going to be a great dad.

Me? I'm still neurotic.

~Thursday, July 21, 2016


One of the first Christmases my sister-in-law attended, she scoffed at us.

"Christmas is so much different at my house."

"How?" My mother asked.

"It's joyous."

She probably had a point. My mother's grandparents were farmers during the Great Depression, and they would save every penny and buy more land. There was some story about how a Pizza Inn was built in town, and her grandmother never got to go because they were always saving for land. As a result, gifts given from my mother are always modest and practical in nature. My brother and I would take turns opening our towels and smile and say thank you. You don't really jump up and down like you would if you got the newest gaming system.

So maybe it's because my great-grandmother never got to go to Pizza Inn. Maybe it goes deeper with our German roots. Maybe it's as simple as the terrible divorce my mother went through when we were kids, but we are not a joyous family. I used to write about that a lot.

I remember when we signed the wedding venue. All I wanted was to have the wedding in one of those antebellum homes. Inject a little bit of me into what would be a Jewish ceremony. And we found the perfect house. It was painted white and had 2-story columns on the front porch, and the flooring was so old that it creaked when you walked in the house. The curtains were green velvet in the front parlor, just like Scarlet O'Hara's Tara. And the bar had been refinished in glorious mahogany wood. It was magnificent. It was perfect. And that's where I had my wedding.

My dad and mom and I sat around a 10-person table. My parents were writing checks for the deposit. "Smile!" my dad ordered.

I did. I think he wanted the reaction when you get a new gaming system on Christmas day. He was writing a large check; he wanted me to jump up and down and kiss his neck with appreciation. I must have given him the towel smile.

"That's Sarah," my father said to no one in particular. "Sarah isn't a happy person."

I was happy! I was also nervous!

My mother freely admits that we are a reserved people. She also thinks I had my thyroid disease for much longer than anyone had realized and that it kind of shaped my personality. Always moving at a tone softer than everyone else. There are a thousand more explanations I could come up with if I sat here long enough.

So when I peed on the stick and the pregnancy test turned positive, I shrugged.

That's Sarah, my father's words had echoed. She's not a happy person.

I smiled the towel smile.