It's a Preemie!

"La la love plus one...where does it go from here?" - Haircut 100
I had a little possum on a Saturday night, and this is how his story goes…

My Birth Story – 26 March, 2011 – 9:24 p.m.

I was running late for work, but then I’m always late – or running. It was a beautiful afternoon, so my trusty fruit and vegetable cart man was out. I bought three bananas, two oranges, and a bag of baby carrots. Then, I ran to get my coffee. “What kind of donut would your baby like?” asked Elda, my sweetheart of a coffee-lady. “What?” I didn’t hear; she has a lovely, but thick accent. “Your baby. I want to give you a donut today because you are so nice, always nice customer to us.” That made me glow. Not the offer of a donut, but her constant kindness for as long as I’ve been going there. Sometimes she’s the last cheerful person I see on a Saturday, because Saturdays at The Mex are the most difficult night. “The pink one,” I answered. Yes, donut, sugar. Sugar and fruit, my two favorite food groups!
Back when I was a rockstar Mex waitress!

However, that isn’t how my day had begun…

Earlier that morning I’d had a dream that I was about to go…as in, wet myself. I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could! Grr. That Tristan! He’d been sitting on my bladder since day one; he must have shifted onto it even further. I felt insecure about my new problem with incontinence, but I’d read that was normal so I wasn’t very surprised. I got ready for work just as I would any other Saturday. Servers are never allowed to call out sick – not even when they are pregnant and/or incontinent.

Once I clocked in I cleaned until I got my first table. I carried out tall stacks of side plates, filled the napkin bin, and wiped the counters. I visited with my friends and coworkers while I ate my sesame bagel with cream cheese, and sipped at my cinnamon iced coffee. The coffee-people knew my order by heart. I sipped the coffee slowly unsure if I’d be able to run to the bathroom in time; it felt like I needed to go every few minutes. Pretty soon my section was full and I didn’t have time to think about my situation other than feeling awkward about it. I was bouncing from table to table, table to bar, table to kitchen. Each week I grew significantly larger but I was determined to waitress every Saturday night for as long into my pregnancy as I could. I was 30 weeks and 6 days; two more months to go!
Taken after one of my 12 hour shifts - I planned to work up until the last minute!
That's one plan I could keep.
Whenever I had a moment while waiting for my drinks at the bar, I would lean over and let my baby-belly hang down. Gravity helped. Tristan had sat very low my entire pregnancy and it put tremendous pressure on my lower back. I had hoped to be one of those women whose endometriosis and ovarian cysts had been magically cured by pregnancy, but after a few pain-free months I discovered that wouldn’t be the case. They were monitoring two large cysts and I was under strict orders to come into the ER if the pain became unbearable because my ovary could flip with the growing baby.

How does one measure pain? I’m unsure. I have experienced pain nearly every day for two years. It ranges from subtle to so strong I need to grip something tightly to keep from collapsing. I hide behind a face that reveals nothing. How would I describe it, though? I know that it hurts, but I’m certain others experience pain far worse than mine. The first time I thought my appendix had burst, and it’s been said to be more painful than contractions and child birth.

My lower back was already aching and I found myself easily annoyed with customers. I wondered how many more Saturdays I could do this…I counted how many I had left and it didn’t sound hard. “I’ll just go as long as I can,” I coaxed myself.

Pretty soon it wasn’t just my back. There was pressure on my tailbone. “Something isn’t right,” I told my manager. “I’m not sure if I can finish.” “That’s fine, just let me know.” I took food out to a table and got more refills, printed out a check. The pressure was growing. “Something’s wrong. I can’t finish.” I went into the back office to sort myself out. It was busy and I would be giving up a large amount of money if I didn’t finish my shift. I tried to sit down, but I couldn’t. Instead I kneeled over the back of a chair.

My mind was swimming. Something wasn’t right, but what was wrong? I thought I’d call my OB’s answering service. Meanwhile Brandon showed up to start his shift at 7 o’clock. He came to find me. “What’s wrong, baby?” “My tailbone hurts.” Too literal. “Maybe you should go home and rest.” “No…I think I need an ambulance.” “Really??” The idea of sitting in a cab – or sitting at all – seemed impossible. “Will you get my things, please?”


“What’s your emergency?”

“I’m pregnant. I’m 30 weeks. Something doesn’t feel right. I think I need to go to the hospital.”

The dispatcher put me on the phone with someone who asked me more questions. Brandon held me up and helped me into the alley behind the restaurant where I wanted to wait. I was so embarrassed over calling an ambulance that I didn’t want to parade past my former-diners as they sipped their margaritas. We heard the  siren, but nobody came. Several minutes went by and then a medic found me on foot.

Together she and Brandon helped get me to the ambulance.

“Can you tell me what you’re feeling? Do they feel like contractions?”

Was she mad, I wondered? I wasn’t due until 29 May, 2011, and I’d certainly know if I were having contractions! More pain, more discomfort. The medics were nice and light-hearted. They said some things that made me smile, but my heart was starting to beat harder.

Contractions…is that what I was feeling, and if so, now what? What would happen?

I was put into a wheelchair. I had chosen to sit in the ambulance, but it was so uncomfortable. They were rolling me along as waves of discomfort took over my body; more pressure. People talking to me, signing papers. Now we were rushing, the wheelchair going faster. They told Brandon to wait and then I was through doors and into another room. Talking, telling me to undress, asking when my water broke? I said, no, no, I don’t know, I thought he was laying on my bladder. The nurse helped me get my pants off and…splash. Oh, I was so humiliated. Now it was obvious. “Yes, that’s your water. Lie down.” They checked me. “Six centimeters.” What? My heart was really racing now. Next room. “Now she’s fully.” People were rushing everywhere and I kept hearing “plus one, plus two, plus…” I was in shock.

And why couldn’t I put my head down? I’d be able to think better if I was comfortable. I reached up to discover a large black flower I’d put in my hair before work. My nails were the color of a rock band and my make-up was done enough to last and last. “Did you get ready before coming here?” my attendant asked in a hesitant voice. “No…work, I was working…”

They tried to put a needle in my arm to hook up an IV, but my veins are hard to find. She missed. She tried again on the other arm. Blood shot everywhere. “I’m a mess…” I remember murmuring. The contractions wouldn’t let me think straight. Someone told me they were going to put the baby’s heart on a monitor. They couldn’t find it for what felt like eternity. Finally! Thump, thump…along came a contraction, then, thump……………thump……………the heart rate slowed and nearly disappeared. It sounded like my body was killing the baby! This couldn’t be real, but a woman came down to my eye level and said, “I need you to understand something. You’re going to have your baby now – there’s nothing we can do to stop this, do you understand? We’re going to take you into the OR so you’ll be closer to where your baby needs to go – there won’t be time for you to see him. They need to take him right away.” I nodded. “Someone get dad.”

Brandon appeared, and put on scrubs. “Dad, you can be in the room…” mumble, mumble. My bed was rolling to the OR. “Call my dad?” I asked Brandon. I realized nobody knew what was happening to me. I was scared. I wanted to e-mail my mom like every other night. I still couldn’t believe this was happening. I had two more months, and after a difficult first trimester I loved every minute of being pregnant.

“Do you know what you’re having?” They were trying to distract me. “Boy…” People everywhere, bright lights over me, Brandon in position behind me, so many people. I couldn’t see Brandon. Instructions given to me. There was a clock on the wall behind all the people. It was only 9 o’clock. They helped me slide to the edge of the table…a sheet was placed under me, a bucket on the floor. It was happening the same way I’d seen it when I was in the room for Julie’s labor and delivery.

“We need to get this baby out quickly.”

With each contraction Tristan’s heartbeat slowed and then I’d wait for it to start again. Terror had enveloped me. The best thing I could think to do was breathe and get through it. Breathe…it was a little after 9 now. Each contraction I pushed three times. The young girl who introduced herself as my nurse leaned over and told me not to push with my face. I was scared, though. If I didn’t push with my face, then I’d push with my body and he wasn’t ready yet.

I listened as his tiny heartbeat faded away…


“I’m about to have another one.”

“Great, use it!”

I pushed so hard! Past three times, over and over telling myself his life depended on it…because it did. Nothing would change what was happening and if I got him out faster he’d have a better chance. Right? Push, push, I saw the clock ticking behind everyone. Brandon’s voice encouraged me. “You’re doing such a good job, honey.” He must be scared, too, I thought.

One final push 24 minutes past 9 o’clock and out our baby came. He just slid out. He felt long. Commotion down there and then he was off – surrounded by his medical team, body straight, back arched, long – so long. He looked like he was crowd surfing through a Pearl Jam video. He was alive. He left the room just as the tiniest voice I’ve ever heard let out a thin wail. Then the doors shut and I was left alone with those who had stayed behind for my afterbirth.

It took a long time to fix me up. Longer than it took to have Tristan.

They told Brandon he could come have a look at his son. I was being sewn up. I wondered what he would see.

He returned with a picture on his cell phone. “Here he is!” I looked. “I can’t see his face.”

I was overcome by waves of shock. Time went by slower than ever.

God couldn’t have kept Tristan safe through the fire, through losing the kittens, through our wedding, and the sad but fun days of staying on the Berzinsky’s living room floor – only to take him away from me – could he? Why? Whatever comes, it is His will, I thought. Throughout the aftermath of the fire I had been humbled over and over again. I sent God one hundred prayers. “Please keep him safe.”

I was rolled back to the normal delivery room. Philadelphia’s skyline lit up the window. I was rolled into the maternity ward and given a single room, tucked away from the noise of new mothers with “well babies”. Ours was unwell. Time passed and then they told us we could go see him. It was after midnight. I wanted to run to him. I was afraid. I was overjoyed and nervous to meet the tiny, but long human who’d come out of me. What would he look like? I’d dreamed of him so many times but hadn’t even seen his face in my dreams. Through a locked door. Directions. Please Wash Your Hands For Two Minutes, the sign said. We did, turning the water on and off with our knee. Around the corner. There.


There in an incubator with a spotlight on him was our son.


He was facing away from us.

Held my breath. Walked closer.

Then I looked upon his face, and he was beautiful! “He’s so teeny,” I said, then remembered my own mother had called me teeny while she was pregnant. He weighed 3 pounds, 11 ounces and was 17.5 inches long. Every feature was perfect, but so teeny-tiny and there were so many cords attached to him. A mask kept me from seeing much of his face.
Hello, Tristan...would it be all right if I held your hand right now?

“You can touch him,” the nurse told me.

“What? We can?”

“Sure,” she smiled.

We opened the doors to his incubator and reached in. His skin was warm, soft, and delicate. His fingers closed around ours. The three of us held onto each other; my teeny family. Then Brandon said a prayer for all of us. that's almost what you look like. There's still so much covering your face.
I didn’t expect this to be our story. I’m a creature of habit and routine, but I’m learning to expect the unexpected.

Tomorrow Tristan will be four weeks old. His gestational age will be 34 weeks and 6 days.

Tomorrow I will gaze upon Tristan and see his face with nothing attached to it for the first time in his life.
"Wait!" I said to the nurse. "I've never seen his whole face before! Please, may I take a picture?"
Thank you, Lord, for giving Brandon and me a teeny son who is a miracle. Thank you for keeping him safe. I pray that he will remember to breathe so that he may come home to us.

We were on the apnea monitor for four months after discharge - we celebrated the day we got the news.
Goodbye, monitor.

Here he's 7.5 months and learning how to eat solids the BLW way!

The Piano Boy - 15 mo actual, 13 adjusted.