That first cry. A literal cry of relief, both for my body and for my soul. He is here. He is breathing. Now I can breathe. Finally.
I started having contractions at 30 weeks. My midwife and I were constantly watching for signs of preterm labor. With my pulse issues only getting worse as the pregnancy progressed, I started seeing both my regular midwife and a perinatologist (maternal-fetal specialist). We didnt know, if my high pulse and low blood pressure were effecting blood flow to baby. We also wanted to watch for signs of Intrauterine growth retardation, as this can be caused by the mother being iron deficient. I was placed on bedrest both as a precaution and for symptom management. So, I had ample time to focus on everything that was going wrong, or could go wrong. Every day was a very conscious and prayerful battle not to be consumed by anxiety. As the end drew near, I found myself not being able to think about anything but holding this baby in my arms. But, I was scared, what if he isnt ok? what if we loose him? What if he is still born? What if….those awful, morbid ideas. Everyone kept telling me things were fine, baby showed no signs of distress, despite my issues, but I felt the need to prepare for the worst, just in case. My heart cant take another loss. I just couldnt bear it. And then I would think, ‘those thoughts are going to get you! It will happen if you keep thinking it!” I knew my thoughts were irrational. As a logic driven individual, knowing how irrational I was being, just contributed to the anxiety. I felt like I was losing my mind and my sanity. At 36 weeks I started having nightly contractions. They were strong, they were timeable, some nights 10 minutes apart, some nights 4. Every night I wondered if this was “it”. I would stand in the shower and enjoy the heat and massage of the water for pain management. I would try to relax and deep breathe. The contractions would last a couple of hours and then, just as fast as they came, they would end. It was exhausting and frustrating. Also at 36 weeks, baby dropped. I started with all of the common pre-pregnancy symptoms (I’ll spare the details 😉 ) I noted every change and with every change, I became more anxious to meet my baby! At 38 weeks, I decided to try the chiropractor for relief from the contractions. I suspected maybe baby was in a posterior position and the contractions were my body’s way of trying to better position him. I had been seeing the chiropractor often earlier in the pregnancy, but because of my frequent passing out, had stopped driving and had not been back. After seeing the chiropractor, the contractions completely stopped. That night, I wasnt sure if I should rejoice because I had found relief, or cry, because relief meant baby was not coming that day. I was so ready! Little did I know, the next day would truly be the day!
I had worked hard, for the past three weeks to make sure the laundry stayed done, the house stayed picked up, things were always in “ready mode” just in case I would go into labor. This was a huge feat, considering how literally awful I felt most of the day. The morning after I had seen the chiropractor, I really felt great! I finally slept. My pulse was down in normal range and I wasnt having any of my usual morning symptoms. Levi had a field trip and would be gone all morning. Eva was in school. I decided today I would take a break. No cleaning, no laundry. Per Emma’s fabulous suggestion, we went to get breakfast at Panera and went to Target to walk around and see the sights. I NEVER leave the house without a shower and make up, but today I chose to. I have been really focusing on living life and enjoying the moments and not worrying, as much about silly things like my appearance being perfect. While walking around target, I noticed I felt “funny”. Not really in pain, no real contractions, I just felt different. I wondered if today might be the day, but I had been wondering that for weeks. Emma and I enjoyed our morning so much. We took our time and browsed Target for two hours. I couldnt help but look at Emma in awe. It literally felt like days ago that I was waiting for her arrival. Now, he she was bouncing and giggling in the toy aisle, her long crazy hair bouncing with her. She just looked so grown up! We finished up at Target and headed home to pick up Levi.
When we got home, around 1:30pm it was business as usual, start the dishwasher, switch the laundry….I was standing at the kitchen counter making peanut butter sandwiches for the kids. My phone was wedged between my ear and my shoulder, Darren on the line. And then all of the sudden:
Me: Well, my pants are wet….im really not sure if my water broke or I peed my pants?! I dont feel anything…they are just…wet?!
Darren: Well you better figure it out!!!
So, I finished making the sandwich and went upstairs to try and figure it out! At first, nothing. Did I really pee my pants?? Then, there it was again! Nope. Not pee. Ok…here we go. Suddenly I wasnt so ready anymore! I called Darren back, I called my doula and my midwife. Darren came home. His mom came to watch the kids and we were headed to the hospital. Funny how life always decides to happen when we are the least ready. My house was trashed, I hadnt showered, nothing in the car. All those weeks of being completely ready and when it finally happens, I couldnt have been less prepared!
We live about 45 minutes from the hospital. I realized, about 20 minutes into the drive that I had not felt baby move since my water broke. We drove faster. Too fast probably. We zigged and zagged in traffic. We were scared. I poked and rubbed my belly. I ate a chocolate bar. Still no movement. I prayed the entire rest of the drive. Finally, upon arrival to the hospital, he moved. Sighs of relief.
I assumed, based on my experience with the other kids, that labor would start fast and intense since my water had broken, but, nothing. Not one contraction! Here I had worried about these darn contractions for months and now, when I needed them, there wasnt one to be found! Our doula, Dani, met us as the hospital. She walked with me, a literal two miles, around and around the unit, in an attempt to get things started. Nothing. We tried heat, we tried the birth ball, we walked some more. Still, nothing. At 7:45 pm, my midwife came to check on me. She knew right away what the problem might be. She did an internal exam, and sure enough, she was right! Only one layer of the amniotic sac had ruptured. There are actually two layers! She broke the second layer. Another GUSH of fluid. Once again, we tried all sorts of things to get contractions started. More walking, more heat, more birth ball. Little contractions started here and there sporadically.
Around 10pm, the contractions became harder and so much stronger. After two considerably strong ones, my midwife noted a problem. Baby’s heartbeat was decelerating with each contraction. The midwife kept her cool, but I could tell, she was concerned. I had one very specific request going into this labor. I did not want to be stuck in bed. But, no matter what positions we tried, out of bed caused problems for baby. The plan had been intermittent fetal monitoring, but now, I was stuck in bed and tethered to a machine. I found that frustrating, but of course, a healthy baby trumps all. At first, they allowed me quite a bit of bed mobility. Pain control was fairly easy. But, the harder the contractions got, the more baby’s heart rate decelerated. I was put into a “Texas roll” position. Basically, this means you are on your side with your bottom leg completely straight and the other leg is propped high to open the hips. Assuming this position got labor moving fast….and it was back labor. Thankfully though, Mr Lukas was making a rapid descent. At this point, I lost track of real time. What I do remember was being checked at a 4, followed very closely by transition. I remember Darren trying to rub my shoulders only for me to push him away and then drag him back to do it again. I remember a nurse poking her head in the room to ask the midwife if she needed a cart. She calmly responded “no, its just now transition, we have a minute” Well I showed her! Pushing started.
With my other kids, I had an epidural. It was late in the game with Emma, so I had some idea of what contractions should feel like, but I was not, in any way, prepared for what this pushing phase would be like. Sure, I read books and talked with my “been there done that friends” but its just something you have to experience. All the books say to stay calm, to breathe, to work with the contractions. They say to think “open thoughts”. But, in that moment, my body, not my brain, had full control. I didnt need to be told when or how to push. My body was doing it, ready or not! At this point, I checked out. I wanted to open my eyes, I wanted to touch and to watch. but all I could do was feel. My eyes were closed, an iron grip on the sheets. I yelled out a very loud profanity. I remember everyone in the room giggling, because that was so out of character for me! I could hear the voices. Dani, my doula, coaching me. Mary, the midwife coaching Darren. Darren telling me baby had a head full of hair. I wanted to be a part of it, but I couldnt open my eyes! This really is my only regret. With the help of the midwife, Darren was able to deliver. I wish I could have seen the look on his face, the love in his eyes. I pushed about 5 times. push 1 he crowned, push three, out to the ears. push four the head is delivered. Push 5, at 1151pm and he is out! That final push brings so much relief. your body relaxes, your heart relaxes. As he was born, it was very obvious why contractions had been causing his heart rate to slow. His cord was wrapped around his arm and through his legs and just about every which way you could imagine. Poor guy was seriously tangled!
Finally, my eyes opened and I took the first full breath, in what seemed like hours. My head flopped back on the pillow. Darren handed me the baby. I couldnt hold him, the shakes were too strong. I felt too weak. Darren and Dani, helped hold him there. He wasnt crying. I stated to worry again. I remember asking over and over if he was ok. Is he breathing? Darren kept wiping him with a blanket and finally he let out a big loud cry. I have never seen a baby with vernix so thick! It seemed no matter how much they wiped him, he was still covered! He was christened the “cheeseball” right away. A funny little nickname that has literally stuck.
The shakes were pretty intense and I found it impossible to focus, on anything. Lukas crawled to the breast, and with a little support he latched and began nursing right away. The “breast crawl” is an amazing thing. With no help at all, a baby will literally crawl, guided by smell, to the mothers breast. The moment that child is born, his body and his mothers work together to sustain life as a unit. Just one more instance of God’s perfect and intricate design for our bodies. They propped me with pillows so I could hold and nurse him. In that moment, Things became so clear. Here he is. He looks just like Emma, I thought. He is so warm, so alive. His sticky, slimy skin felt amazing on mine. Its over, the wait, the worry. He is here.
Reality pulled me back quickly as it was time to deliver the placenta, an easy task, compared to a human. I really dont even remember it. The bleeding seemed a bit out of control, so they started pitocin. More shakes. That stuff is awful. I tried hard to focus on baby and not the shaking but it wasnt easy. My whole body ached from fighting the shakes, no matter how much I tried to relax. The midwife pushed on my belly, hard, to slow the bleeding. While I see now that she was just doing what she needed to, in the moment, I hated her! Does she not know I just pushed a HUMAN out of that belly!? OUCH!! Finally, the bleeding was under control. Mary and Dani went home. We spent the next hour nursing and smelling and holding and loving.
After about an hour, they came in to examine the baby. 6lbs 10 oz, 19 inches long. He was perfect.
Meanwhile, as I attempted to get up, it became quickly obvious that the bleeding was not under control after all. I spent the rest of the night with nurses constantly pushing on my belly and taking multiple drugs to get it under control. The pain was awful and the hormone induced shakes continued all night. All I wanted was to enjoy my baby. Instead, I was pushed and picked on every few minutes all night long. At some point in the middle of the night, the nurse came in and was exceptionally vigorous with the fundal massage. I yelled and cried. More pitocin was hung, oral cytotec given. I hurt, physically and emotionally. I wanted to snuggle my baby. This was a breakdown moment. I looked at my baby in his bassinet and cried. This was not how I wanted it to go. In that moment of tears, I was convicted. This whole journey has been about God teaching me to trust HIS plan above my own. I had been gifted a healthy baby boy. I needed to focus on that.
The bleeding issues continued to be the focus of our stay. No one could explain why I was bleeding and no one knew exactly what to do to control it. I ended up taking pain medication to control the pain from the continuous exams. Mt belly was bruised from the nurses pushing. It was very easy to become discouraged. But, every time I did, I was reminded how healthy and perfect my baby was. This pregnancy and recovery has been complicated, but, I am finally getting some answers to some long term health questions. Its easy to see, now being a few days on the other side, that these “set backs” really are in Gods plan and really are a way He is providing answers for me. I am so looking forward to being well and being better for my children. I know health is a process, but its a process I am excited and determined to get started. I am not sure what the future or healing plan looks like, yet, but I know I will need to allow myself much more time to rest, which is not in any way easy with four little ones. So, that means, I will need help, something I am terrible at asking for.
Lukas is a week old. This week has been a whirlwind. Visitors in and out. Trying to help the older kids adjust. A tongue and lip tie revision, a trip to the doctor for a weight check a trip to the chiropractor for CST and an adjustment. It doesnt seem like we have had a quiet moment yet! Lukas is definitely a fourth child. No amount of noise seems to bother him. If he is awake, he eats. He sleeps well at night as long as I am close. He definitely knows his mama, he doesnt like to stray far. The way he responds to my voice, warms my heart. Today, I finally had some time, just to sit and enjoy. To smell his hair, and watch him sleep. It was so needed. Holding him, I still cant even believe its real. After months of wait and worry, here is this little man in my arms. he truly is a gift.