On this day, seven years ago, I watched Danielle finally get some peace after 6 weeks of torture.
When we found out that Danielle was pregnant we were obviously ecstatic, the pregnancy was going along fine, at first. Eventually after a few ultrasounds they started getting concerned by the fluid levels, they were to low and the placement of the placenta was another concern, but it was early so lets be positive.
Summer came and went, we got a check up before our annual Assateaque trip and it was a pretty positive report. When we came back from that trip though thing changed dramatically.
The fluid levels, still low now had them concerned that Thira's kidneys might be compromised and the placement of the placenta was now a worry. Our folder was switched to a red one, not the best feeling.
We were sent to see a specialist who sat us down in a dingy, dark office. It's his job to tell us every single horrible scenario that could possibly happen. We walked out of there in complete shock. We were basically told that as of right now if Thira was to arrive her chances of survival were 50% at best.
Not soon after this pleasant news Danielle had to go on bed rest. Thira had started to push against her placenta which was completely blocking Danielle's cervix. This caused some bleeding. We rushed to the hospital in terror and panic. This began Danielle's semi permanent residence at Staten Island University Hospital. A week in, a week at home, more bleeding so back in we go. A constant monitor on her belly with the swooshing sound of Thira's heart beat. Steroids were injected to help Thira's lungs develop faster and more grim news about the survival rates of premies. Danielle was at 25 weeks. A fetuses lungs develop at 28 weeks. The hope was to get to 28 weeks.
For the next month time went ridiculously slowly. Every day when I was at work I was waiting for a call that the worst has happened. I got a few calls that Danielle had another spotting episode but it was contained. Then I started hearing about the kidney pain.
One of the ways to stop contractions is to make sure you are hydrated, so in the hospital they kept her on an IV This caused her kidneys to freak out. They would give Danielle incredibly powerful drugs and she would scream herself awake in agony. They did x-rays, tests, conferences etc. Danielle didn't care all she cared about was giving Thira every chance she could. She would scream and cry the pain was unbearable. I sat there like a lump powerless to help in any way. At this point I very little connection to Thira, not like Danielle did anyway so all I cared about was Danielle's well being. All Danielle cared about was Thira's.
"Pray for a girl' the nurses kept saying. For some reason premie girls do better than boys. All the while that this is happening we still kept the sex a mystery. All we had was the constant whooshing of the heart monitor. It never waivered by the way. Thira, was a champion even in dire circumstances.
We finally got to 28 weeks it was as if a giant rusty clock full of cobwebs creaked its minute hand past midnight and we sighed a bit of relief. On her own Danielle had figured out a system. As soon as she figured out that the pain in her kidney was approaching she would pee. This kept the pain manageable, small victories at this point.
Week 29! every day, hell every hour that Thira stayed in utero was a victory. Hospitals are not restful places. Lots of beeps, boops, and blinks to keep you from really getting a restful sleep. One day my sister and brother in law came up to visit and we were all just kinda hanging out when we were told that today is the day. "Why today?" we asked in utter disbelief. The reason was that the baby is big enough that they believe she will survive yet if Thira stayed in to much longer she could rupture the placenta and then there is real trouble so we were at a sweet spot.
One hour after they told us this Thira was born. Two pounds six ounces of screaming fury. The operating room was tense. There were probably 12 people in there not including Danielle and I. Later I found out that this was not normal. Once Thira emerged a team of pediatric doctors took her away checked her out and rushed her upstairs. We saw a tennis ball sized head for a split second then she disappeared.
About 10 minutes later a nurse was staring into the room. I thought she had a look of fright to her. I was told to go with her. I steadied myself for the worst but it turns out that I had to sign a form so that they could do whatever procedures they needed to for Thira's well being. I was walked past all the sleeping new borns into another dark room with the premies and there lying in an incubator was a stretched out, buck naked, screaming in furious rage Thira. The cord that leads to her belly button was extended, and open they were going to put a feeding tube in it to feed her. At 29 weeks and 2 days she was to early to know how to swallow yet. I stared at an incredibly small, but powerful creature pissed off that we disturbed her habitat. I walked out of there relieved. I knew she would be fine. I always look at Thira knowing she will be just fine.
Back to Danielle. She is being sewn up. I don't see her again until she is wheeled out. She is sleeping for the first time in 6 weeks. While she sleeps I call everyone to let them know where we are, that Thira has arrived and for now things are good. During those 6 weeks I kept the family updated about Danielle with late night calls. I would sit in the cafeteria in solitude or i'd be home staring into space while Danielle was in one of the many rooms listening to the monitor, white knuckling it through the kidney pain.
It took a year for me to process how stressful those 6 weeks truly were. It beat me up physically and mentally but it really knocked Danielle on her ass. It took a long time for her to feel like herself again in every aspect. Lying on your back for 6 weeks and then having major abdominal surgery takes a massive toll. One bright spot once Thira arrived the kidney pain disappeared.
Never complaining, never whining. No hint of a pity party. Just focus and in hindsight sacrifice. Danielle would have gladly sacrificed her life in that hospital if it ensured that Thira would survive. Whenever I am reminded of those 6 weeks I think back at how I would stare at Danielle in awe really at how incredibly strong she is. I knew then that she is doing heroic, and that I am still now inspired by what she did 7 years ago. Her OBGYN Dr. Spierer, who delivered both girls, and who is a saint called me when I was home to assure me that both Danielle and I would be fine. I knew they would be but it felt greta for him to say it. He then said that Thira will never know what Danielle did for her and that is the truest thing I ever heard.
I owe Danielle 2 debts that I can never repay.