At a 35-week ultra sound they found a tumor on my baby’s spine. I went to a maternal and fetal medicine specialist where it was measured, discussed, and diagnosed: a teratoma. It was benign, but it would have to come out. And soon. Because otherwise it had over a 90% chance of turning cancerous. I was grateful they found it when they did. Grateful it was a problem that had a solution. But, as I drove to the hospital to give birth to my third son, I was also frightened.
My baby was going to the NICU after birth for tests and observation, so I knew I wanted my recovery to be quick. Therefore, no epidural (which I had used for my first two). My husband would stay with the baby so he was never alone, and my friends were scheduled to watch our two older boys at our house so I wouldn’t have to worry about them.
My induction was two days before my due date. I ran stairs and watched a very stressful football game in hopes of kicking him out before then. No luck.
The birth was slow . . . until it wasn’t.
The doctor started with misoprostol and added pitocin around 4am. I was exhausted (who can sleep on those terrible beds with an IV in her arm?) and frustrated with the limited progress. I texted my friend at 7am, letting her know she would probably be on duty for most of the day.
The pain got worse. Fast. I got in the shower, which helped, as much as anything can. I wanted to know how far I’d dilated. When the doctor said I was 8cm and about stage +1, I said, “Oh, thank God!”
It took one more terrible contraction. Then my water burst, and the baby was crowning.
They had to move me to an OR for the birth so there would be enough room for all the staff needed because my baby was a special delivery. So I couldn’t push. In fact, a nurse put her hand in between my legs to keep the baby inside.
I don’t remember how far they wheeled me down the hallway. Or how many people were waiting. I couldn’t even tell you if the doctor who delivered my baby was male or female.
All I knew was pain.
“Help me. Somebody, please help.” I said (screamed) over and over, until finally, without the planned staff, the doctor said, “Ok, one small push.”
Then he was there.
And it was all worth it.
I didn’t cry after my other two boys were born. But as they lay this baby on my chest, the tears came.
I cried out of relief and joy and sadness, because I knew soon they would take him away again.
And they did.
My husband sent me pictures. It helped, but it wasn’t the same.
And when I held him again, there was an IV above his left ear.
The doctors and nurses were wonderful. But it was still hard. Hard to have a breast pump instead of a baby in my room. Hard to eat without being able to see him.
The NICU was open 24/7 except for an hour and a half during the morning and evening shift change. That first night, I watched the clock and sobbed. It felt so wrong.
The surgeon needed an MRI to get a clear picture of the tumor. I wanted it done right away, of course, but it took a day and a half before all the necessary staff was available.
I tried to feed him before he went down. The transport team arrived to sedate and restrain him (in order to get a clear image). I didn’t want to see that, and I wasn’t allowed to watch the MRI, so I left to wait in my room.
I stared at the phone until I couldn’t; then I took a shower.
It rang as I was stepping out.
“He’s back, and he’s hungry, ” my husband said.
I was turning back to grab a yellow medical gown, when I saw our surgeon coming down the NICU hall.
“Has anyone talked to you,” he asked.
“No, well, they called to tell me he was hungry,” I replied.
“I looked over the MRI results and did a physical exam. It was clear. I don’t know what they saw in the ultra sounds, but there’s nothing there. As far as I’m concerned, you can take him home.”
I could have hugged him. But I didn’t. I just nodded and cried.
There had been a tumor. Ultra sound after ultra sound confirmed it. So the NICU doctor consulted with several more experts, looking for a reason.
“Is there anything I need to watch for going forward?” I asked when she came to check on us.
“No, everyone I’ve talked to said to just treat him like a regular healthy baby from now on. It’s wonderful, but I wish I had better explanation for you.”
“We had people all over the country praying,” I said. “It’s a miracle.”
The next day I got to take my baby home. Without a surgery. Without a tumor. I got to bring him home.