17th December 2011. 34 weeks 5 days into my pregnancy (out of a total of 40 weeks). It was a routine Saturday for us. We had watched Sherlock Holmes the previous night so decided to treat ourselves with a few extra hours of sleep on Saturday morning. We lazily got up at 11 and got ready. The plan was to meet E & A, a couple of my closest friends from the business school, for brunch at Preservation Kitchen. It was good to catch up with them after several months. I had a super hearty meal of a sandwich and fries. I was so stuffed after this that I wanted to go out for a walk once we got home. We made a grocery store stop on our way home. We were continuing to do incremental shopping for our girl – this time it was Aveeno baby body wash and fragrance free lotion. We lazily got home and decided to laze around for a bit longer, so conveniently skipped my walk plan. Siddhu started to fill out the paper work for cord blood banking and I started to fill out our baby’s scrap book.
3:45pm. In the middle of all this laziness I suddenly felt something and I told Siddhu I was leaking, and I didn’t think I was controlling it. I decided to check and it definitely looked like my water broke, or something. My first reaction was panic because she wasn’t even full term (37 weeks) yet and wasn’t really ready to enter this world. Siddhu called the FMC (Family Maternity Center) at Evergreen and they asked us a bunch of questions before saying come on over and we will check to see what’s going on. Although the FMC nurse hadn’t eliminated the possibility of my water breaking, she also mentioned some other possibilities that did not involve my water breaking. As much as I was praying for those other possibilities, I knew it was time. In the next 5-10 minutes Siddhu readied the bag to take to the hospital and he did an excellent job of anticipating things I would need if I were to stay there for a few days. As we were about to get into the car, I hugged Siddhu and told him “…but she is not ready yet” and he said “don’t worry beta, everything will be fine…” We were out of the home by 4:15 or so.
The next hour and half were spent in the nurse trying to figure out if my water had in fact broken as she was trying to test for the presence of amniotic fluid. Don’t ask me why it takes so long, but there were at least three different tests, each more precise than the other, that the nurse planned to do to confirm if it was amniotic fluid or something else. The doctor did mention to me that they were hoping nothing happens for the next 24-48 hours so I could complete my 35th week, at least.
5:30pm. The nurse hadn’t yet finished the third test to check for amniotic fluid, but my labor pain had started by this time. Within the next 10-15 minutes, I went from zero labor/contractions to a full blown active labor and was shifted from the triage room to a proper room where I could potentially deliver. I had a back labor and it hurt a lot. In the next few hours I went from 1cm to 10 cm dilation and our baby was ready. My existential support through all this was Siddhu and I am so so so so so glad that he was there with me in the room to support me and sometimes annoy me as I was going through the labor process.
10:50pm. It was the happiest hour of our lives. Our baby was born. At 5pounds and 17 inches, she was a preemie, yet a healthy baby. It was magical. I was crying. I was happy. I was emotional. And then I saw her. That was the most beautiful new born face I had ever seen. I looked at her and she is so beautiful. I couldn’t believe it actually happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes, ears, touch or any other sensation at that point. Siddhu and I were happy. We were satisfied. I was exhausted. Since she was born more than 5 weeks before her due date, she had to be admitted to NICU so they could monitor her for vitals and everything else they have to do. I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I was focused on trying to relax my tense muscles after the labor. We finally decided to call our baby girl Samaira. Samaira was here. All that wait, all that preparation, all that thought – it was over and she blessed us by entering our lives. She has this absolutely divine and peaceful look on her face. Every time I looked at her, I felt peaceful. I wasn’t discharged from the hospital yet. They kept me in the hospital for a total of 3 days to check for my WBC count and iron level. Samaira was going to be in the hospital for much longer depending on how she would hold up in the real world, outside my womb.
19th December 2011. 9am. We were in the NICU with Samaira when then nurse told us that the doctor had ordered a down syndrome karyotype test based on their analysis of Samaira’s physical characteristics. That statement sounded totally unreal to me. Siddhu told the nurse that we had done screening during our pregnancy, which had turned out negative. She mentioned that a negative screening still leaves a a chance that the child could have down syndrome. In the next 10 minutes or so Siddhu did some of his own reading to check for the physical characteristics that could signify down syndrome. There were about 15 or so physical traits listed on the site, and the presence of any 6 or more such traits in an infant is enough for the doctors to believe that a child could have down syndrome. When Siddhu read the list and looked at Samaira, he knew she has down syndrome. I saw that look in his face, and then I knew it too. These last 10 minutes changed everything for us, or at least the perception of it. We knew that the karyotype testing was a mere formality. A neo natal specialist came and spoke to us and confirmed the news with a >90% probability, which in his head was more like a 100% probability anyway.
The next few minutes, hours and days were a total emotional turmoil for Siddhu and me. There were lots of tears and lots of emotions. Siddharth and I reacted somewhat differently to this. He was more expressive in his emotions, which is very atypical of him. I was secretly feeling a little bit relieved that he wasn’t holding his emotions to himself and was letting them out. I on the other hand was more suppressive about what I was feeling. I did cry. But I didn’t say much. I don’t know why. I guess I still kept going back to how unreal those 10 minutes had felt when the nurse told us about the karyotype test order and when Siddhu read and confirmed Samaira has down syndrome. I have played those 10 minutes over and over in my head. I have played with the thought that if those 10 minutes hadn’t happened, we would have walked home with a Samaira who wasn't diagnosed with down syndrome. It is unbelievably hard to describe the world of emotions that the two of us have gone through in the last few days. And we continue to go through those every single day. We (including Samaira) will probably go through a world of such emotions for the rest of our lives. The thing that gets us through every single time though – is our baby Samaira. I look at her and she continues to be the most divine and peaceful face I have ever seen. I fall in love with her every single time I see her. I can’t stop staring at her. I can’t stop kissing her. I can’t stop wanting to hold her. I can’t stop wanting to be there for her, for the rest of our lives. She is the best gift we have ever received and is our strength. She is my baby. The one I had always dreamt of while I was pregnant, and before.
None of this lessens the pain of the situation. But it gives us the strength to walk again.
2nd January 2012. She is 2 weeks 2 days old today. The last 16 days have gone in making sure Samaira is healthy. She has to get through some basic preemie challenges such as being able to regulate her temperature, breathe, eat, etc. One by one she has overcome most of those hurdles and is now in a crib as opposed to an incubator. She can regulate her body temperature, has gotten rid of her jaundice, is beginning to put on some weight, and is continuing to grow her strength. Her biggest hurdle is going to be feeding. She has an orange tube in her nose that goes into her stomach. That is how Samaira is getting all her nutrition requirements currently. Since she is a preemie baby who has down syndrome, she has a low muscle tone and does not have enough strength to suck on my breast or bottle for long enough. For Samaira to come home, she needs to be able to bottle or breast feed herself for the most part. Doctor’s don’t know how long it would take. But a safe assumption is her original due date, which is January 23rd, or maybe longer. While I was discharged from the hospital on the 3rd day, Siddhu and I have been staying with Samaira in her NICU room. I feel lucky to have Siddharth as my pillar of strength, can't imagine it any other way. Samaira is growing stronger each day and that’s progress in the right direction.
I can’t wait to come home with Samaira. I can’t wait to spend all my time with her, play with her, learn with her, share with her, grow with her, and just be with her. She is my baby.
I love her. My Samaira is here!!