My mom and Ryan went with me to my 38-week appointment on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. She and my dad were in town anticipating the arrival of Baby #2 - and to help me with Clara since I was on bed rest - and we figured she could come along to hear the heartbeat at what should have been a routine appointment.
When the doctor came in she announced that because my blood pressure was still high and there was some protein in my urine, she felt strongly that we should induce that week. To my shock, she had already put a call into Labor & Delivery to see if there were any openings to schedule an induction on Friday. As in three days away.
Not surprisingly, since I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around even being pregnant, it hadn't really set it in that I was far enough along to have a baby. But this new development made it as real as it could get.
Things moved quickly from there. She stripped my membranes (I remember really hoping this would bring on labor) and then we waited for word on the induction. Finally we were told that Friday was a go, and that I'd have to actually arrive Thursday night to start the "ripening." I could still eat whatever I wanted for Thanksgiving (the most important question I had, of course), I just had to stop at 3 p.m.
We left with very little information otherwise and I actually didn't mind not knowing much more than that. Less to stress over.
I started having contractions that night. I really hoped this was it and, after a while, I even started keeping track of them on my phone. They were anywhere from two to eight minutes apart, lasting about two to three minutes each time. I'd had Braxton-Hicks since week 19 so I knew these were different. After a few hours I moved from the couch to my bed and was in pretty bad pain. I even started crying (although this was probably due more to hormones han anything else because I remember whining that everyone was eating dinner while I was in labor).
I'd soon learn that it wasn't actually labor. By 10 o'clock the contractions had slowed to a screeching halt. False labor. Ugh. I was not too happy.
My mom and I met with the L&D nurse on Wednesday afternoon and I found out absolutely everything that would happen at every turn (at least that which could be predicted) and my anxiety level shot through the roof. I was relieved, though, when the nurse - after asking me if I or anyone I knew had been exposed to just about every single disease you could possibly imagine - only asked if I had MRSA. Why was that a relief? Because Ryan had it. I didn't blog about it at the time, but he had an infection on his arm which we believe he contracted at the gym. I was deathly afraid that a) somehow it would infect Baby #2, b) somehow it would infect me and/or Clara, and, c) he wouldn't be allowed into the delivery room. His wound had mostly healed by this point without endangering any of our lives, so I was thrilled to dodge that last bullet as well.
My last "belly shot", taken at 38 weeks, 5 days pregnant, Thanksgiving day
Thanksgiving morning I was pretty calm, but by the time we were sitting down to eat, I was a basket case. I ate dessert at 2:59 (I have a fear of being hungry so I made sure I pushed it to the last second) and then waited for seven o'clock to roll around.
Clara and me with my parents, right before leaving for the hospital
Our last photo as a family of three
My mom and Ryan drove me to the hospital and we were buzzed in to the very quiet Labor & Delivery unit. They were waiting for me.
The rooms were huge and pretty nice. We got settled in, I changed into a gown and got in the bed. A hospitalist (an OB, usually retired, who works for the hospital and takes care of you when your doctor isn't on call) came in and started the cervidil, which is inserted into your cervix. A string is attached to it, which is later pulled to remove it. It's used to ripen the cervix before induction and in rare cases it can start labor. I was hoping that would happen to me.
I should also add that my blood pressure was still high, further proof that an induction was needed. Despite even being very calm at that point (somehow I miraculously relaxed), it wasn't going down and the baby needed to come out.
After an hour they decided that since labor was not starting, it was safe for me to eat and drink. They brought me a "Thanksgiving" meal that was less than appetizing, but it was the drinks that I was excited about. I was so thirsty from not drinking for seven hours that I asked for water, juice and ginger ale.
Since nothing was happening, my mom went home and Ryan and I tried to get some sleep. By this time it was eleven and they were waking me up at 3 a.m. Try sleeping when not only do you know you have to get up in four hours, but that you're waking up to have your baby. I think we slept for about an hour and a half.
At 3 a.m. (just as Black Friday shoppers were waiting in line for deals) they woke me up to check my cervix. It was more effaced, but I was still only one centimeter dilated, which I'd been since 36 weeks. I was told I could shower, which I did, and got ready to start the induction at 4 a.m.
IVs were hooked up (along with the pitocin I received an antibiotic for Group B strep) and before I even realized it, I was officially being induced. It happened so fast. By an hour in, I was feeling something, but not much. My doctor (my actual OB, now, thankfully, on call) checked me around 8 a.m. and while I was 100% effaced, I was still only one centimeter dilated. Maybe one-and-a-half if she was being generous.
Not yet too disappointed, I carried on. My nurse (who I absolutely loved, by the way) told me to let her know if I wanted an epidural. Already? I thought. But it doesn't hurt yet. As strange as it sounds, it was still hard for me to conceptualize that this was it. It was really happening. I was in a hospital bed in labor and soon might need an epidural.
I asked her how I would know if I needed one. "Oh, you'll know," she said.
It seemed like the day flew by. I didn't really do much of anything other than lay in the bed and talk to Ryan and my mom (who returned early that morning to the hospital) yet before I knew it, it was noon, eight hours into labor. That's about the time things started to pick up.
The contractions became painful. They made me lay on my side all day (I can't remember why, but there was a good reason) which was painful to begin with due to my back pain and I was never able to get comfortable. I'd ride out the contractions, just closing my eyes and dealing with it. There was no special breathing, no music, no concentration, no nothing. I know I keep saying this, but it was still hard to wrap my mind around the idea that this was it. To employ those special tactics would mean it was happening. I figured I'd save that stuff for later, when I was really in labor.
Of course I knew that normal contractions came every two to three minutes, so I was surprised when mine didn't seem to stop. They'd increase and decrease in severity and then it'd just start all over again immediately. There was no relief. I was glued to the computer screen which showed a constantly rising and lowering line on a graph. The nurse confirmed what I already had figured - they were coming super strong and fast.
My doctor gave the order to turn off the pitocin. They'd already turned it down to the lowest level and the contractions were still too severe. Once it was off, they slowed but still came. Periodically they'd turn it back on to give it another shot.
I remember around this time being told that the baby's heart rate was too steady. They actually like to see it dip and rise, to show that the baby is responding to the contractions (especially because mine were pretty severe and frequent). My baby was "sleepy" as they put it (Ryan and my mom now admit they knew at the time this was the medical professionals' very delicate way of not scaring me), probably due to my body's reaction to the pitocin.
Around this same time (times and sequence of events are now pretty foggy) I took the epidural. I'd always said that when the pain became worse than endometriosis pain, I'd consider drugs. My endo pain, which had even sent me to the hospital twice, was the worse pain I'd ever experienced. But the contractions quickly surpassed that. And, I realized, I medicate endo pain! Why was I now letting myself feel every terrible second of the contractions? It was bad and I could not handle it. But I'll tell you one thing - I gained a newfound respect for women who do it unmedicated. You all are super-human, in my opinion.
I remember not being nervous about the epidural, just very upset about having to sit up on the bed to get it. My back pain was still pretty bad. The nurse bear hugged me while the anesthesiologist went to work behind me. I don't remember what it felt like, actually, but when they laid me back down my back began to hurt even worse.
Soon, I no longer felt the contractions in all their severity, but I was complaining of back pain. The nurse said I shouldn't be feeling that, and called the anesthesiologist back in. He gave me another dose of something (not another full epidural) and I waited for it to take effect.
Once it did, I was wishing for the back pain. I was suddenly paralyzed from the waist down and I started freaking out. Not being able to move or feel your toes, feet or legs is disconcerting to say the least. It really messed with my head and I started having an anxiety attack.
Shortly thereafter - when my mom had left to go check on my dad, Clara and Ryan's parents in the waiting room - my nurse began to look visibly concerned and I could tell she was moving very quickly. The next thing I knew, she was tilting my bed way back so that my head was lower than my feet. The baby's heart beat had dipped dangerously low. I was scared but remained calm. Once it was all over, I remember starting to cry and feeling absolutely terrible that, just moments earlier, I had been so concerned about my lower half being paralyzed. That seemed so silly in comparison to my baby's safety and well-being.
My doctor came in to check my cervix again around 2 p.m. and I was still barely two centimeters dilated. She sat on a stool next to my bed, my favorite nurse next to her, with my mom and Ryan on the other side of me. It was time to have the c-section talk. She told me she was very concerned for my baby, that he was not responding well to contractions, and her hands were tied with the pitocin because the lowest dose was too much for me yet nothing was happening if she turned it off. She'd give it thirty more minutes, she said, to see if I miraculously became more dilated.
She could tell I was tearing up and asked how I felt about the c-section. That's when I lost it. I was crying so hard I couldn't get any words out. My mom stepped in and gave some of my reasons - I wanted to have a vaginal birth, I was concerned about bonding afterwards and breastfeeding. My doctor was very sweet the whole time and explained that she wanted to avoid an emergency c-section. We still had time for her to do it the way she wanted. And, of course, getting our baby out healthy was her priority. I said I knew that. I really, really understood that and wanted that more than anything. It was just hard. She understood and was so kind about it. Later, my mother told me she saw my nurse crying.
Then my doctor looked at the screen with the baby's heart rate, looked at me, looked back at the screen and then declared she couldn't wait the thirty minutes to check again. It's not going to change, she said. Okay, I said.
In a matter of seconds my room was a fury of activity. Nurses I hadn't before seen were busy in my room, doing what, I wasn't sure. I said goodbye to my mom and was taken back to the OR.
Ryan had to wait outside while they prepped me. It reminded me a lot of being in the OR for my three other surgeries, yet I wasn't about to breathe deeply and fall asleep. I would be awake for it all and I was leaving with a baby.
They set up the blue curtain in front of me and my arms were outstretched on each side. I remember thinking it was like I was on a cross. The symbolism helped to calm me a little.
The good news was my arms weren't strapped down. The anesthesiologist sat to my left and put a heart beat monitor on one of my fingers. I hate hearing my heart beat. It has always given me anxiety.
Ryan was brought back in and a nurse asked him where his camera was. His camera? No one told us he could have it in there and in the rush of everything he didn't ask. The very sweet nurse offered to run to our room and search for it, and soon returned with two cell phones and a camera charger, but no camera. Ryan said something about his iPhone camera being enough and even as I was strapped down about to have a c-section, I had the wherewithall to plead to him that I would rather not have the first pictures of my baby taken on a cell phone. The poor nurse didn't skip a beat and ran out to the waiting room to ask my parents for help. Eventually, she returned with two cameras and we were all set.
In the minutes that followed, I remember not knowing if they had started yet. And I purposely didn't ask because I wanted to be pleasantly surprised to learn that they'd actually started a while ago. And it turned out that was the case. Eventually someone said something about the baby, I think I then asked if it would start soon, and to my surprise learned the section had actually been underway for a while.
That's when the pulling started. It felt like they were yanking my insides out. And, actually, they basically were. It was a very, very weird feeling (the anesthesiologist had warned me ahead of time that most women describe it as "weird") and then my heart beat monitor started to go haywire. No one seemed to care, though, it just freaked me out. Really freaked me out.
I didn't really know what was going on, but I figured everything was okay because the doctor and nurses were all very calm and talking about the songs on the radio. The Pina Colada Song in particular, is one I remember hearing. Only later did Ryan tell me at one point he saw blood shoot across the room and the doctor and nurses were all like, "woah!" and then went back to business. Just another day at the office for them.
Before I knew it, my doctor told Ryan to get his camera ready. The baby was coming! As he stood up we both realized he would have to peer over the curtain in order to see it. "Don't take a picture of my insides!" I told him. Ha. Turns out there are a couple pictures of my insides and I'm so grateful to have them because they are the first pictures of Luke entering the world.
Seconds before Luke's birth. I'll spare you the pictures of my "insides"
I heard commotion. My doctor was talking to me. The baby was beautiful. Perfect. "Is it a boy?" I asked. "Yes, it's a boy," they laughed.
Ryan was talking to me about the baby as well, from across the room, and the first thing I remember him saying was that he looked like my niece. And he had blond hair.
Then there was discussion of his name and I heard Ryan say "Luke". "Did you just name our son?" I yelled to him, jokingly. (I will tell the story of how his name came to be in another post, but I will say we weren't 100% set on a name until just hours before his birth).
Then Ryan brought him over to me. It was probably only seconds after he was delivered. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh," I remember saying. I thought, that came out of me. I also remember thinking, why did I just say "gosh"? If there was ever a time to praise God, it was now! Funny the things that run through your mind.
Ryan brought him to me and put him near my face, and I kissed my baby's cheek.
I never actually cried, but - and the same exact thing happened when I met Clara - it was as if I was in a state of shock and couldn't produce tears. Ryan sat with the baby next to me while they closed me back up. After his initial cleaning and weighing, he never left my side. We took a couple pictures and I just stared at him.
Soon (although it felt like an eternity) they were done and we were being wheeled back to the room. I say "we" because it was Luke and I riding on the bed, his little hand wrapped around my finger.
Back in the room, family immediately came in. Or were they already there? I think they were there waiting for us. I held him for a bit - and introduced him to big-sister Clara - before passing him off to his grandmas and grandpas. I talked to my sisters and my aunt on the phone, and then realized I needed my baby back! And, wait, I hadn't tried to breast feeding. Time was running out before they would be taking him to get bathed. We asked the nurse for more time so I could breast feed, she checked, and told us we had an extra hour. I was thrilled!
My dad, meeting the first male offspring in our family in many, many years
I had absolutely no idea what breast feeding meant. I felt no different than Clara holding her doll up to her chest and pretending to feed her, but that's exactly what I did. I don't remember if he ever did latch, but it was awesome.
They then took him away and I was wheeled up to my postpartum room.
I had just had a baby. I was a mother of two. It still seemed unbelievable.
My two babes
So those are the facts, but there is so much more to it. There are so many thoughts still swirling in my mind. In a nutshell - it was one of the hardest days of my life and one of the best days of my life.
It's actually strange to think about the hours leading up to his birth, because he was still Baby #2. He was faceless, nameless (at least officially) and a stranger to us. I loved him, of course, but despite his literal closeness to me, he seemed so far away. But that all changed at 3:10 on Friday, November 26, 2010. The moment I first saw his beautiful scrunched up face with his swollen eyes, he was my baby boy.
I should also add that I have moved past any anxiety and negative feelings I had about having a c-section, thank God. After the initial "baby blues" subsided, I was able to see that my c-section was not only necessary, but actually went beautifully. It was a great experience and for that I am eternally grateful.
There are so many God-moments from the day of Luke's birth. One in particular happened when I was back in the labor & delivery room after the section. It was then that I first realized Luke was born on a Friday, at the hour of Divine Mercy (not to mention his patron saint for the year, which was chosen just weeks before he was born, is Faustina). I found great comfort in Divine Mercy during my time of infertility and St. Faustina's diary brought me incredible peace. When I was at my lowest, I would force myself to pray Jesus, I trust in you. I tried to trust that my prayers would be answered, that God would take care of me no matter what His plan for me was. I have to believe the hour of Luke's birth wasn't a coincidence.
Father and son
So that's Luke's birth story. I am blessed to be able to write it, just as I was blessed to be able to write Clara's adoption story less than a year ago. I am not worthy of the gifts God has given me. Two healthy babies, and two incredible stories, which could only be written by God.