Watchful Waiting

Feb 08

Baby Sister turned one on Saturday. In honor of her birth, I am taking this month to tell the story of the wild way she came into the world and our family. Please click here to read the first part of the story.

Image by Tydence

Just over a day after I arrived at the Labor and Delivery floor, I “graduated” to the High Risk Maternity Unit where I would spend most of the next 19 nights.

The unit was run by a cadre of smart, efficient, gentle nurses who became friends to me during my weeks in their charge. It was an intensely female place, where women came to bring their babies safely into the world, assisted and cared for, just as they have been throughout history, by other women.

There was Annette with whom I chatted about Jane Austen novels and movie adaptations.

And Nichole who stockpiled animal crackers to give to my boys when they visited.

And Sharon who always found a spot on my left arm for my IV so that I could write with my right one.

And Beth who held my hand that one night when everything suddenly felt like a little too much.

It was my job, I knew, to keep my baby inside as long as I could. But how I should do that, no one knew for sure. So I lay in a hospital bed, an IV in my arm, a monitor on my belly, the thump-thump-thump of my daughter’s heartbeat in my ear.

Watchful waiting, the doctors called it. They watched me, watched the staccato lines my daughter’s heartbeat drew across their computer screen. And I waited.

Every few days the bleeding would return – never as serious as it was the day we rushed from home to the hospital, but enough for my condition to be classified a “chronic abruption” and for me to earn a permanent bed in the hospital until my baby arrived.

And one day my daughter’s heart rate dropped so low in response to my contractions that the doctors rushed me back down to Labor and Delivery, worried about umbilical cord compression and sure that I would have to deliver right away. Her heart rate normalized, though, and, after another nervous-making night, I moved back upstairs.

Despite these occasional breaks in the routine, my time in the hospital was filled with this routine of watchful waiting.

I watched my plans for these weeks of nesting dissolve into a new schedule of visiting hours and babysitters.

I watched the repairmen outside my window. Protected from the January chill by nothing more than stocking caps, coveralls, and the rickety elevator that raised and lowered them along the outside of the building, the two men were my companions during my weeks of waiting.

I watched as the nurses whisked my fellow patients to the delivery room, these other women’s stays on our floor punctuated by squeaking clogs on the tile floor.

I watched the parade of visitors that flooded in after the workday and trickled out again after dinner time. I watched my sons arrive with them, looking at me in confusion, opening and closing the countless cabinets in my room, trying to make sense of this foreign land their mom now inhabited.

But here’s the thing about being in the hospital on bed rest: it’s not really so, well, restful. Between monitors beeping, nurses coming in and out to check vitals and dispense medication, five daily blood tests (man, I don’t miss gestational diabetes), and the general hullaballoo of hospital life, I didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours straight for the whole time I was there.

Good practice, I suppose, for life with a newborn.

So, after nearly three weeks of this watchful waiting, when my doctor decided that, all things considered, it was time to schedule an amniocentesis the next day and a likely c-section immediately afterward, I was ready.

I was so ready, I called my husband to tell him the news and then fired off an e-mail to family and friends.

And then, minutes after my doctor walked out of my room, in the middle of writing another e-mail, my water broke.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Galit Breen February 8, 2012 at 8:25 am

Thank you for sharing this. And I’m with you- there’s something about this shared act of mothering that makes us all in tune to each other’s “how we got here.”

(Beautifully told.)


slamdunk February 8, 2012 at 10:38 am

Thanks for sharing your story Kristen. Looking forward to more.


Privilege of Parenting February 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I love the trope of the mother spinning the narrative that envelops the baby’s story that must always remain truly for her in the mists of the pre-verbal, the pre-memory and the pre-narrative. The baby lives the story from the inside out, and yet cannot “remember.” And yet we each hail from some maternal story, each unique and yet, like snowflakes, essentially resembling all the others and coalescing into some ongoing and intricately woven fabric.

This precarious beginning resonates to all precarious beginnings and the deep knowledge that we sense in being always beginners at our current level of consciousness—perhaps coming to trust that our future selves are rooting and wishing and tending and waiting even if we ourselves are continually at some sort of sea in our own broken, white-capped, life-giving waters.


BigLittleWolf February 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Each new life is quite the miracle. I wish we could hang onto that realization as we grow into adults and change the manner in which we relate to one another, as if losing the fragility, the beauty, the uniqueness, the precious care that was taken to nurture the new life and the infant, the young child.

If only. If only we could retain respect for life and extend it throughout our lives.

Beautiful story, Kristen. And so much bravery in that watchful waiting.


Delia Lloyd February 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

What a beautiful story, Kristen and you tell it so well. You should write this up (for publication.) I was totally gripped. I think it would give solace to a lot of moms who’ve ended up in the high risk ward.

Delia Lloyd


Kristen February 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thanks, Delia, for your kind words of encouragement!


Jack@TheJackB February 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Watchful waiting is a great expression.


Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla February 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Love the connection between the doctor and hospital staff watching you and the people and things you were watching. Very nice piece!


Liz Sturm Hanatuke February 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. This brought back memories of the wonderful nurses that I connected with after giving birth. You’re right when you describe it as a timeless community of women.

I look forward to your next post!


Kristen February 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi, Liz. Thanks for your comment and for visiting Motherese. I look forward to visiting your blog and hope to see you here again!


Pamela February 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Oh my goodness what a story. I can’t imagine being in the hospital for 3 weeks. I was there for 1 night and it was all I could take not to escape. How scary that must have been. I am so glad this story has a happy ending!!

Also i am so in awe of how present your were and how much you noticed. Your watchful waiting is beautiful.


Kristen February 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Whenever a sweet mom like you says she can’t imagine being in the hospital for three weeks, I remind her that I had a three year old and a 20 month old at home at the time and she almost always says, “Hmm, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad after all.” ;)


rebecca @ altared spaces February 9, 2012 at 12:08 am

“My water broke” it’s enough to make the water rush to my eyes. Why is that? Such a viseral thing. I’ve had two babies, water breaking each time. Each time it means a baby is coming…in hours not days.

Do you remember Tucks? Those pads or wipes or something? Oh, that smell. One whiff and I am transported to those earliest days.


Kristen February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Yes! It’s witch hazel, I think, and it’s absolutely one of those smells that is evocative of a specific moment.


TheKitchenWitch February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Boy, do I hear you about the “resting” in the hospital not being restful at all. I had HELLP syndrome with Miss M. and they were in to check my vitals every two hours. Jesus. I knew it was doctor’s orders, but man, it seemed unfair.


Kristen February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Just as I had never heard of a placental abruption until I had one, I had never heard of HELLP syndrome until you mentioned it here. (So off to Google I went: All of these pregnancy complications makes me glad – in a way – that I’m done having babies.

You poor thing! A part of me wishes we had been bed bound at the same time. I have a feeling we would have gotten into some trouble together on the High Risk ward…



6512 and growing February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Oh sigh. So glad I know about the happy ending but still can’t wait to get there.


Justine February 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Like Rachel, I’m glad to know that there is a beautiful, healthy little baby girl at the end of all this but man, this is intense! I love the way you paced your story and the details you provided here are exquisite. Especially that of the clogs.

But I’m with you on the restful part being anything but that at a hospital. I’ve experienced it both times post-delivery where I could barely get a couple of hours in before I was awakened and ironically, it wasn’t the baby who was keeping me up!

Looking forward to the next installment.


Cathy February 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Oh you are so accurate about how hospital stays are not restful. And, your water broke. The suspense is riveting. Can’t wait to read the last installment.


Wolf Pascoe February 10, 2012 at 12:14 am

It’s a good thing you didn’t know at the time how nervous you were making the medicos.


Lady Jennie February 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

Never a dull moment. Oh my goodness. I must repeat – so happy I know the ending. So happy the ending was happy.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri February 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Thanks for sharing this. I also appreciate that you presented a more positive side of hospital staff. Looking forward to reading more.


facie February 11, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I love reading and hearing about birth (and pregnancy stories). It is amazing to me how clearly we mothers can recall so many of the details of our children’s entrance into the world as well as the days preceding (though with my memory, I am glad I have written a lot of it down!).

Of course your story has a lot of drama, so I imagine your images are more vivid and numerous than most. Regardless, as others have said, you tell it so well and wonderfully. I really like that “watchful waiting” expression. Looking forward to the next part!


Christine @ Coffees & Commutes February 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Oh how I’m enjoying reading this story, and sharing this journey with you as you share it with us. Thank you for inviting us in, you are doing an amazing job of showing us just how it was.


Denise February 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Kristen, this is such a beautifully written piece. Your descriptions are so vivid and they transported me to your thoughts. I could hear the “squeaking clogs” walking down the hospital’s hallways. And the last line is perfection. xo


SleeplessinSummerville February 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm

This is lovely! I’m so glad that it all ended well. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that what has happened in the past was really not at all a foregone conclusion.


Gale @ TDT February 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Delivering children is not for the faint of heart. That’s all I can say. Thanks for sharing this story. I’m looking forward to the next installment!


Yulia February 14, 2012 at 9:10 am

This is a wonderful written, Kristen. I am glad that both of you are doing fine…
All the pain when you give birth is not in vain and become a happiness when you see your daughter grow up healthily…


Tiffany February 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I love reading this~!!!


Kelly February 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Another masterful chapter in this birth story. Can’t wait for more!


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