Eighteen days ago, my daughter elbowed her way into this world through a Bic pen-sized slit in my abdomen; she was only 31 weeks 4 days gestation. Wait, this isn’t a part of the plan. My baby was supposed to arrive in November, two months from now. Under the harsh florescent lights of the operating room, an army of doctors and nurses in celeron blue scrubs rushed my baby into the other room to stabilize her. Everything suddenly got quiet. Panicking, crying, I begged the nurses to tell me what was going on. Is my baby okay? Where did my baby go? Please, can I see my baby? Can I hold her?
In the week leading to my baby’s birth, things had gone terribly awry. A perfectly happy, healthy pregnancy unexpectedly hairpinned into preterm labor at 30 weeks. A visit to the hospital for reassurance turned into steroid shots, magnesium drips, an ambulance ride to the closest NICU. Nurses, doctors, visitors passed in and out of my room. I lay in bed, delirious and ruddy-cheeked from the drugs, tethered to monitors and IVs and a blood pressure cuff, scared for my baby. So fucking scared. My anxious mind raced with so much uncertainty: Was my baby safe? If she was born today, would she be okay? Can we make it just a little longer, to at least 32 weeks? The unknown scared me. This wasn’t a part of the plan.
Biddaboom, biddaboom, biddaboom, the sound of my baby’s heartbeat from the monitor filled my hospital room. Ahh, my personal flotation device keeping me from drowning in worry. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the lack of sleep, but I heard pianos playing in the silence. When the doctor examined me, knitted her brow, and told me we had twenty minutes to get to the operating room for a C-section — baby was breech — I was convinced I was going to hemorrhage to death and leave my child an orphan; I scratched out a crude will in my notebook and had the doctor sign it as a witness, I texted friends asking them to pray for me (and I’m not a religious person). What does the universe have planned for us?
Following the surgery and after what seemed like forever to sew me up, nurses finally wheeled my bed into the next room. I saw my baby through the numb haze of anesthesia. I couldn’t see her face, but I knew she was beautiful; I couldn’t hold her in my arms, but I knew she was special. Hello, my Britt; it’s so nice to meet you. I’ve been waiting for you, and I love you so much.
The weight of worry and doubt fell from my shoulders, I felt a rush of relief and gratitude. We’d made it.
If there’s one thing I’ve realized in life, it’s that plans are dumb. Birth plans, comprehensive plans, 5-, 10-, 20-year plans, all nice in theory but really exercises in futility. Plans guarantee nothing but a false sense of security to the person writing them, because if anything in life ever goes “according to plan”, you can thank luck for that.
Plans are predictable, plans are boring.
Despite being a planner, I was never going to write a birth plan because I always thought they were silly. We should all know by now that babies arrive when — and how — they want to, birth plans be damned. The same can be said for planning our cities and communities: it’s not comprehensive plans and visioning processes and zoning overlays that make a place special, but unplanned and organic growth. Babies and cities, two things that shouldn’t be pinned down with a plan.
I’m happy to report that my baby girl Britt came into this world healthy and perfect, her only setback being her early arrival. She was born weighing 4 pounds 2 ounces and measuring 17 inches, and each day she grows bigger and stronger. Since my discharge from the hospital, I’ve moved into Britt’s NICU room to be with her full-time; we snuggle for 10-12 hours a day, something nurses say has been a tremendous help for her development. In fact, the doctor told us yesterday that Britt is doing so well that she may be ready to go home this weekend. This weekend, imagine!
Our life in the NICU passes in a delicious blur of cuddling, tiny diapers, paper cups of cold coffee, trays of hospital food, feeding routines, more cuddling, more diapers, more coffee. And there’s love, so much love it’s impossible to quantify in words. Britt, your early arrival wasn’t a part of the plan, but plans are dumb anyway and I’m so blessed to have you, happy and healthy, snuggling on my chest. I love you, and I love our birth story.
I always knew I’d love my daughter, I just didn’t know how much. Because there are some things in life you just can’t plan for.