This is from this week’s Smartmom in the Brooklyn Paper:
Smartmom spent Valentine’s Day 1991 in Lenox Hill Hospital five months pregnant with Teen Spirit, suffering from symptoms of pre-term labor. She stayed in the hospital for a month so that her baby wouldn’t be born four months early.
His due date was June 12.
By Valentine’s Day, Smartmom had already been in the hospital two weeks since the night she hemorrhaged in their East Village apartment and raced over to the hospital terrified that her baby was no longer alive.
When she got to the prenatal ward, a sonogram revealed, thankfully, that the baby’s heart was still beating; she was told that she was having early contractions. If the baby was born, he would never survive: his lungs were too small. She was given massive doses of Terbutaline, a drug that relaxes the uterus, in order to stabilize the contractions.
Smartmom was under strict orders to remain calm. “Don’t laugh or cry,” her obstetrician told her in his thick Romanian accent. “Anything can cause contractions.” She wasn’t allowed to get out of bed and had to use a bedpan. It was pretty awful. But staying calm was hardest of all.
CALM? How can you be calm in a situation like that?
Hepcat, like Smartmom, was a basket-case, during the first week of her hospitalization. Outside of Smartmom’s hospital room, the doctor filled him with a terrifying picture of what might happen if the baby was born early. Hepcat didn’t dare tell Smartmom because he thought it might agitate her and cause contractions.
Hepcat didn’t shave for days and every day he arrived at the hospital looking scuzzier and scuzzier as his whiskers grew in. That worried Smartmom. Things must really be bad she remembers thinking. She was very relieved when he finally shaved after about seven days.
That gesture gave Smartmom hope.
The weeks that Smartmom spent in the hospital were probably the most stressful of her life. When things were touch-and-go, she felt like her doctor — and even her relatives — thought that it might be prudent to have an abortion in order to avoid the risk of a seriously premature child.
It was a wrenching time. Smartmom was so excited to have a baby. But she was also terrified that he would have terrible birth defects.
Luckily, with each passing day, the baby got bigger and the risk of pre-term labor seemed to diminish. The medication was working and Smartmom held out hope.
On Valentine’s Day, Hepcat made Smartmom a beautiful valentine. He photographed a red plastic heart toy with arms and little legs in black shoes. It was holding a sign that said, in Hepcat’s handwriting, “I Love You.”
It made Smartmom cry.
During that time in the hospital, Smartmom had so much love and support from Hepcat, her family and friends. Her parents, who divorced years before and were rarely in the same room together, were at the hospital day after day, side by side (able for the first time to overlook their own differences in the face of this emergency).
Diaper Diva, her cousins, aunts, and friends, including Best and Oldest, who figured out how to wash Smartmom’s hair while she lay in bed, all rallied round. They brought food, books, magazines. One friend gave Smartmom cassette tapes of his favorite ethnic music, another brought a delicious creme brulee from a French bistro, still another gave her an adorable stuffed dog that sat on top of the hospital TV like a mascot.
Diaper Diva was asked by Smartmom’s doctor to give blood (just in case). At first she was told that she was too thin to give blood. While she was disappointed about not being able to give blood, she was THRILLED to be too thin. They told her to go out and have a big meal and then come back later.
Smartmom remembers wanting to connect with the baby, but she was afraid because she thought she might lose him. A wise person (OK, it was the therapist she was seeing at the time) told her to attach to the baby inside of her.
“If something does happen, you will deal with the loss then,” she said.
And so she did. She soared at the art of positive, even magical, thinking. And you know what? It worked.
It was a waiting game. After a month in the hospital, she was sent home. She still had to stay in bed and be very still. She and Hepcat moved in with Manhattan Granny for the rest of the pregnancy. When she hit the 38th week, the doctor said it was okay to move around.
And then they waited some more. Teen Spirit was born on his due date. The delivery nurse screamed out, “He’s cute.” Indeed, he was the most adorable — and beloved — baby in the world.