Peyton’s birthday is on Tuesday. He would be turning 14, but instead, he is forever 13. 13 years. When you say it, it seems like a long time. Its more than a decade. Longer than any one person can be President. Almost twice as long as my marriage lasted. But in reality, its the blink of an eye. 13 years is just a microsecond of a life. Peyton’s birth seems so long ago, but it also seems just like yesterday.
Before Peyton was born – even before I met his father and got married, I always knew that I would have children. Ideally, I wanted 2, a boy and a girl. And I also knew that I was not going to subject them to having alliterative names like my sisters and I had (sorry Janet). But, love was slow to find me and I was 33 when I got married. After we were married, my new husband wanted to put off having a family, but I didn’t have time to wait. I was ready to be a mom, ready to begin the part of my life I’d been waiting for. So, we got pregnant about a year after the wedding.
When I was about 5 months pregnant, I started feeling weird. I had never been this pregnant before, so I didn’t know the blurry vision and headaches were not normal. On what I thought would be a regular OB appointment, I was told I had pre-Eclampsia and was put on bed rest. I had to take leave from work and was supposed to literally rest in bed until the baby was born. I didn’t really feel that bad and certainly didn’t feel sick, so I still cleaned the house and cooked dinner and tried to get the nursery ready for Peyton’s August arrival. After about 3 weeks of this, I went back for what I assumed would be another routine doctor’s appointment. I really thought he was going to release me to go back to work so I could give my final exams. However, my condition had gotten much worse and I was first admitted to Tomball Regional Hospital only to be taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Houston. You see, St. Joseph’s had a level IV NICU that could take care of babies born at 28.5 weeks gestation. The ambulance ride was horrific. . I had to lay flat on my left side as we drove though Houston traffic at 5:00 pm. It was more jostling than a wooden roller coaster ride and ten times more terrifying. Once we arrived at the hospital that would be my home for the next 3.5 weeks, the doctor feared that they would have to deliver Peyton that night. He would have less than a 50% chance of survival.
For the next 3 days, I lay in a darkened room with only the sound of the constant blood pressure monitor to fill the vacuum. I wasn’t allowed to sit up or have visitors except for family. However, I was treated to a symphony of wailing from other women going through labor in the rooms around me. And I was privy to the gossip of the nurses as they fed me commentary of the goings on in those same rooms. Somehow, I managed to block all of this out and concentrate on making my blood pressure go down. On May 22, I was more stable and was moved to a room in the Ante-partum wing of the hospital. This was to be my home for the next 3 weeks.
Although I was now a patient in a hospital, I still didn’t grasp the enormity of the situation. I was worried about Peyton, but I always believed that he would be ok, regardless of how premature he would be (at this point, we knew he would be coming early). My world became very small. 4 walls, a rather uncomfortable bed, lots of monitors, a small bathroom…and thankfully, a large window. I was still not allowed to get up or move around except to go to the bathroom. On the 6th day, I was granted the luxury of a shower and it was heavenly! Each day, my husband would come to visit, and on one of these visits, he took me for a taboo wheelchair ride around the hospital and outside. Although my nurse fussed at us when we returned, it was wonderful to feel the sun on my face after having been inside for over a week. However, on most days I could tell he was really worried. He was still working in his job as a teacher and it was final exam time plus he was taking care of all the things at home so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them. Each day, my mom and dad would visit and some days my sister or friends would come by. While these were wonderful, I spent a lot of time by myself. It was very lonely, but it gave me a lot of time to talk to Peyton and to share with him my dreams and hopes for his future.
Then, on June 8, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston. Within hours, most of Houston was flooded. The downtown area, where I was, was hit unusually hard. The garage and 1st floor of my hospital flooded, and we were soon on generator power. I remember sitting on the window sill on June 9 and seeing one of the busiest interchanges in the city – where I-45 and I-59 meet – look like a ghost town. There was no traffic, except for the random soul who thought they could get through only to be turned back when they faced the lake of water where the highway ducked under neighboring roads. Many of the hospital staff were unable to leave and their replacements were unable to get to work. My doctor at the time was the only doctor for 2 floors for 48 hours. This also meant that no one could get to the hospital, so I didn’t see my family for about 3 days. Funny, I remember only getting PBS on the television and watching “Anne of Green Gables” 2 or 3 times through. Ironically, my house in Tomball was high and dry and fully functional. I begged the doctor to let me go home, seeing how my home was in better condition than the hospital, which was now being serviced by the Red Cross (Red Cross food is disgusting, by the way). But he was adamant that it was too dangerous. So there I stayed.
On June 12, my condition worsened, and on June 13 it was time to start the medication to induce labor. 3 rounds of Pitocin and 2 rounds of Cervodil later, and nothing had happened. While I was having mild contractions, there were no other signs of labor progressing and my blood pressure was steadily getting worse. I was now near Eclampsia and there were fears that my kidneys were shutting down as well as the possibility of seizures and stroke. There was no more time to wait for my body to labor. It was time to consider a C-section. I was taken to another floor, which I assume was the labor and delivery floor and set up in another room. There was a lot of confusion and a lot of conflicting instructions, but one thing was sure, Peyton was coming.
On June 16, I was taken into surgery and I met a sweet nurse named Valencia. Interestingly enough, years later, in 2008, she was one of my mom’s nurses after Mom had a stroke. I guess you don’t forget a name or a tenderness like that. Anyway, I was put under for the Cesarean and at 10:16 am, my beautiful baby boy was born. He was 8.5 weeks early and weighed 2.52 lbs. He was immediately put on a ventilator and taken to the NICU. We were told that we would not be able to see him until he was off the vent, which would probably be the next day. So, worried, anxious and exhausted, my husband went home and I went to a recovery room.
However, Peyton was not to be deterred. Within hours, he was breathing over the ventilator and fighting it. After about 6 hours, it was removed and he was able to breathe on his own with oxygen support. Later that evening, as I was resting alone in my room, I got a knock on my door. Peyton’s primary care nurse, Melissa Rothmund, asked if I wanted a visitor and brought in my tiny little baby boy. She laid him on my chest and all I could do was stare in wonder at this miracle before me. He was smaller than a cantaloupe and fit in the palm of my hand, but he was wide awake and looked me right in the eye as if to say “Hi Mom!” It was love at first sight. Real love. Deep, unexplainable, raw love. At that moment, I knew that THIS was why I had been put on this Earth. In that instant, my life had been made complete by this little person with wisps of strawberry blonde hair and amazing blue eyes. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly home.