"Mmmhmm", I nodded, closing my eyes and enjoying the tingly feeling spreading all over my body. It had been about 35 and a half hours since I first felt the contractions that wouldn't stop; 40 since I drank a castor oil shake in desperation to get labor started. A few minutes later, I was numb to the world and Kip was sitting at my head as I lay spread eagle on the operating table, staring at the giant blue curtain erected to keep me from getting up close and personal with my inside organs.
"What do you think it is?" Kip asked, looking dapper in his white scrubs.
"I think it's a boy still, what about you?"
"I really, really don't know"
The surgical team chatted away about changes to the union contract and weekend plans as they casually cut into me. One of them looked at Kip, "Do you want to see?" Kip nodded. "Alright, just let me know if you feel faint or something. We can't have you passing out on the floor." He stood up and peeked over the curtain.
"What's it look like?" I asked.
"Um, it's really bloody" he responded, not looking the least bit phased. "Here it comes!"
"Yeah, they're pulling it out! It's........it's a girl!" He walked back over and took my hand, "It's a girl, it's Ainslie!"
Tears ran down my cheeks and onto the oxygen tubes running across my face, "A girl?" I squeaked, my voice grainy from hours of grunting and yelling and pushing.
"We have a little girl."
"It's Ainslie." We smiled at each other, my tingly feeling having nothing to do with the spinal block now, and then I realized something was missing. "Wait, why isn't she crying?" I asked. Kip looked over the curtain and back at me, "Oh, they're just getting some stuff out of her nose and mouth, it's okay."
What I didn't know was that my husband, my Superman who had just seen me through 35 hours of drug-free labor with nary a complaint, who'd held my hand or my supported my back through over 10 hours of pushing, who held me in the car on the way from the Birth Center to the hospital when we realized that was the safer place to be, who watched my lips and ears turn blue as my oxygen level dropped along with my kidney and liver function and who watched me wheeled into the C-section, still pushing as they lifted me onto the table, was now watching our little girl having CPR performed on her tiny little body.
Ainslie Jessica was born at 8:01am on October 5, 2010, weighing 8 lbs, 11 oz, measuring 21 inches long. The doctor's notes say it only took 30 seconds of resuscitation for her lungs to clear enough to force a breath, but it felt like 30 years. One of the doctors doubts she felt a pulse when she was pulled out; another says it was faint, but there. Either way, she was not a healthy or happy newborn. They didn't even stop to show her to me before they whisked her to a side room and continued rescue measures. Kip ran between the two of us, trying to calm me, then over to see how Ainslie was faring. He was there when she first opened her eyes, and eventually I heard a faint cry from the next room.
The rest is fog to me; I vaguely remember being wheeled to the recovery room and asking how Ainslie was, Kip coming into the room and giving me updates before running back to the nursery where she was under an oxygen hood and constant observation, waiting for the weather outside to clear enough to be airlifted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Anchorage. The nurses took photos of Ainslie, printed them out, and brought them to my room so I could see what she looked like. Even more vague are the few moments I got with her before she was transported to Anchorage--the flight team brought her to me in a travel incubator, and I could barely see her through the access armholes in the side. I was able to reach through and touch her chest for about three minutes before they took her and Kip to the plane; I wasn't healthy enough to be airlifted with her.
It's been more than a week, and now I'm in Anchorage with Kip and Ainslie, who is still in the level 3 NICU. She improves every day but, well, we're still here. Two days after she was born, Kip was able to hold her for the first time and she loved it! Now that I've been able to rejoin them, we go over every day and hold her and talk to her. We dream about taking walks at home and dressing her in her own clothes. Poor little girl, she looks around at all the tubes and machinery and then at me as if to say, "Really? I was supposed to come out of my warm little womb for all of this?" She probably thinks this world blows. I can't wait to show her that it doesn't.