In honor of Mother's Day this week, I am feeling nostalgic. Please join me as I take a trip back to those early days...days of hope and joy, and fuzzy-headed (rather large) miracles...and also stories of sadness and loss, and months of fragile hope and darkness. The jumble of emotions and stories which pave my journey to motherhood.
Catch up on the Journey:
Well, let's get down to the business of having this big baby, shall we?
I actually went a week and a half past my due date. Which, some of you are probably nodding your heads, saying, "Well, that's why she had a big baby!" But, guess what? My 2nd baby was 2 weeks early, and she was still big. So, there.
What's your vote? I will let you speculate and tell me why you think I had big babies. My parents are convinced I either had gestational diabetes, or my due date was wrong. However, I tested negative for diabetes both times, and neither of my babies had elevated blood sugar levels when they were born. But, maybe? Also, I felt certain my due date was correct...I knew my date of conception.
Okay, but back to the business of birthin' that baby!
Looking back, I should have known I was going into labor. But, I was such a newbie. I just had no clue. My water had to break before I realized, "Huh. I guess I'm in labor."
Last everything. My last day of work had been Friday, March 31st. I just knew I was done. I was tired all the time, and was struggling just to get around at that point. The doctor had told me that if I hadn't gone into labor before Tuesday, he would induce. I don't even remember what my husband Dave and I did that Friday night. I'm sure it involved lots of feet propping up and resting. Saturday, Dave and I went to a matinee movie (Because of Winn Dixie)--always my favorite way to spend an afternoon! Coming home after the movie, I remember being extremely tired. Dave was doing something in the back bedroom, and I remember chatting with him in there, and lying back on the guest bed. Before I knew it, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I fell asleep into a long, hard nap. It makes me smile now to remember that. I'm sure my body knew what was coming, and battened down the hatches for one last bit of rest.
I woke up groggy and disoriented. However, we decided to go out to Olive Garden for dinner. Dave and I had enjoyed many "lasts" for a couple of weeks by then. We kept saying, "Let's go have our last (fill in the blank) because it could be tonight!" Dave was SO disappointed I didn't go into labor at the Oak Ridge Boys concert...especially during the song Elvira. He just knew that would make a fabulous birth story to tell!
But, in the end, Olive Garden gets that proud distinction. Our last dinner as a 2-person family was a plate of angel hair pasta with marinara sauce. Well, and salad and too many breadsticks.
I didn't feel great that night. I kept attributing it to my overly long nap that afternoon. We had quite a wait at Olive Garden, so we decided to walk around the perimeter of the restaurant while we waited. Now, I am not an adventure-seeking person like my husband. The fact that I even agreed to walk around the back of the restaurant should have been an indication to myself that something "different" was up.
After they finally decided to seat the overly large pregnant woman who kept walking around the back of the restaurant, and peering into the windows every single time, we ate a delicious dinner. However, ALL food in those last days tasted like the best thing I'd ever eaten!
After dinner, we headed to K-Mart for something. I don't even remember what Dave was looking for, but I went in with him. I remember walking around and walking around in the store, just DYING to find somewhere to sit. My back was really hurting, and I felt the urgent need to sit. Even when we went home, I laid on the couch and commented to Dave how much my back hurt.
Hello--back labor? Oh, right. Newbie girl in labor had no clue...
Let's get this party started! After we got ready for bed that night, I just couldn't get comfortable. And remember--by that point in my pregnancy, Dave was sleeping on the couch. Around midnight, I felt a "pop" in my tummy, and felt a little bit of moisture. I got up, and realized my water had broken. I went to tell Dave--who had moved from the couch to the floor, for some reason. (Remember--we did have a guest bed. I'm not a cruel person who banished him to the floor. It was his choice!)
"Dave, wake up. (He was sound asleep.) Dave, are you awake? I think my water has broken."
"Huh? What? (rubbing his eyes) Are you sure? Maybe we should go back to sleep for just a little while, and make sure."
"Dave. No, I'm sure. The doctor said if my water breaks, I have to go to the hospital. I don't think we can go back to sleep."
"Are you sure? It might be nice to get one last night's sleep."
"I'm sure. We really do have to go in now."
Where's the Call List? Dave and I quickly got dressed, and started making some calls to family. Remember, this was Saturday, April 1st--April Fool's Day. (Technically, it was already April 2nd) I remember calling my dad, who was in Florida--an hour ahead. I woke him from a dead sleep to tell him I was in labor and headed to the hospital. In his groggy voice, he said, "Ha ha. April Fool's!!" I told him, "Dad, I would NOT wake you up in the middle of the night for an April Fool's joke! Just pray for me, and I'll call you when we have the baby!"
My mom was visiting my brother and his family about 5 hours away. When I talked to her, she wanted to leave immediately, and drive through the night to be there with me. I'll never forget how my grody ole big brother--okay, my very sweet big brother (but don't tell him)--agreed to drive my mom through the night, with no sleep. His wife and kids left first thing the next morning to head our direction.
My sister and her husband were only 2 hours away. She and my redneck brother-in-law were the first to greet us at the hospital.
Let's go! Being the good girl rule follower, of course I had my bag all packed. Dave and I drove to the hospital, and rode the elevator up to the 2nd floor to check in. Since my water had already broken, they checked me right into a delivery suite. I put on the lovely hospital gown, and crawled into the bed. By now, I had started having contractions. The nurses hooked me up to the monitors, and found that I was dilated to a 2 cm.
Labor is a good word for it. By this time, it was 1 in the morning. My doctor had gotten there, and was checking on me. I had a really wonderful delivery nurse. With contractions that were getting harder all the time, I progressed to a 3 cm, then to a 5 cm. I let the nurse know that I wanted an epidural. Because it was the middle of the night, and weekend, they called the anesthesiologist to come in. My contractions got progressively worse and worse. I found out that I am not a loud labor-er. I am the silent type, that "goes inside myself." I didn't want to talk to anyone, or look at anyone in the middle of a painful contraction. I closed my eyes, and prayed, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." When the pain was too terrible, I was only praying, "I can do all things, I can do all things."
That tricky window of opportunity. The next time the nurse checked me, I had jumped to 8 cm so quickly that they thought I would deliver very soon. I hate to say this--in case there are any pre-mothers reading--but the pain during contractions at 8 cm (which is what they call "transition") was almost unbearable. At that point, I was doing little or no communicating at all, even between contractions. Contractions at that point were a minute apart. My family had arrived, and my mom and sister came in to see me. I barely even spoke to them. They could tell I was hurting, because they didn't stay in the room long. Also, from what I hear, I must not have cared much about my modesty, and gave them a peep show. Oops! Oh well...
The delivery nurse was surprised that I had not progressed past an 8. She also broke the news to me that since I had jumped to the 8 so quickly, I had missed the window of opportunity for an epidural.
Choices to make. That was not happy news to me. I was in a lot of pain, and for several hours, my body had not progressed past 8 cm. The nurse suggested I try to push for a while, to see if that would help me along. She spent an hour with me, having me push during contractions. That didn't help, either. By then, it was the early dawn hours. My doctor came in again after the hour of pushing, and talked about the possibility of a C-Section. He said the baby was not under any distress at all, but he was concerned that our baby was not descending, and my body was not progressing past an 8.
The choice was easy! I have to be honest. When I heard the words "C-Section," I knew that meant surgery. And surgery meant PAIN MEDICINE. And pain medicine meant AN END to the horrible contractions.
I told my doctor I felt good about a C-Section, and that I felt we should head that direction. My husband agreed.
A reason for everything. Thank goodness we chose C-Section! God knew I didn't need to be delivering that big baby through my birth canal! I'm sure that's why He didn't have my body progress any further along.
The OR. I had to be moved to the surgical floor, so they transported me there while Dave donned his fancy blue scrubs! When we arrived, the anesthetist explained about the spinal block he'd need to administer. By this time my contractions were coming hard, and fast. The nurses and anesthetist had to help me time it perfectly--right as a contraction ended--they helped me roll to my side and grab my knees, so that my spine could be stretched and exposed for the spinal tap needle. I barely got into position before the next contraction. But the anesthetist was a fast worker, got the needle in, and almost immediately I experienced relief. In no time, I was completely pain-free.
*Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!*
Sweet relief. Ah. Now we're talking! Now that I was pain-free, I could again communicate. Since I'd had 2 surgeries before this one, I had no fear at all of the C-Section. I was just ready to see my precious baby girl!! The nurses put a drape across my belly to obstruct most of my view. However, I could still see a lot of what they were doing--and I watched every bit of it. Well, except the initial incision. I didn't want to see them cut into me! Even though the doctor wasn't in any sort of emergency hurry, it wasn't any time at all before they had opened me up, and were reaching in for our sweet baby.
She's here!!! Around 9am that morning, my doctor called out, "Here's your baby girl! Wow, she's a big one! But, she looks perfectly healthy!"
Someone chimed in, "Wow. She really is big!"
The surgical assistant said, "She's a giant!"
To which my husband retorted, "Hey! That's my daughter you're talking about!"
"What do you think she weighs?"
And...at that point everyone made a guess. I felt like we were in Vegas. The biggest guess was 10 pounds. (There was no baby scale in the OR.)
My baby girl. They handed her to my husband, who brought her up close to my face so I could see her. It was so surreal in that moment to see the baby who had been in my tummy all those months (the baby who had made me so uncomfortable for the last month!!) Our daughter. What precious words! I couldn't hold her yet--because I was on the operating table--but Dave gently laid her on my chest. Her dark eyes just stared into mine, and I met our darling Rebecca in that moment. Her cheeks were round and rosy, and she had the softest pale blond fluff for hair. Dave held her up to me so I could kiss her chubby cheek and whisper "I love you" against her soft skin before the nurse took her to weigh her and take her vitals.
The doctor finished stitching me up, and wheeled me into recovery. After they placed those deliciously warm blankets over me, the delivery nurse came in to tell me our Rebecca's statistics. Are you ready for this?
The stats. Our sweet Rebecca weighed 12.2 pounds, and was 21 inches long. No one in the OR had guessed that high! Even in the clear plastic bassinet, our baby looked like a 3-month-old! Which, size-wise, she was. She wore 3-month clothes and diapers right from the very start!
My claim to fame. Word got around the hospital, and people came up to the nursery window to see "the big baby." I'm not sure all of my family appreciated that distinction, but Dave and I felt like hospital celebrities for a couple of days! I sure wish I had a picture of Rebecca next to the other babies in the nursery window. She really did look like a giant baby next to those puny little things!
My hospital experience. I loved every minute in the hospital. The nurses were so kind and so helpful. I couldn't imagine having to leave--HOW would I be able to take care of our baby? To be honest, I was scared to death. I'd never been around many newborns, and even though I had read scores of books and watched informational videos, I felt unprepared. In the hospital, I asked lots of questions, and relied on all of the help they were offering.
A confession. Do you want to know something really cheesy? I loved my hospital stay so much, and felt so bonded to those ladies who taught me how to mother a newborn, that for a couple of months, every time I passed the hospital, I got teary-eyed. Maybe that was just the hormones talking...or maybe I was just so grateful they had been so kind and nurturing to the scared new mama.
We made it! Somehow, that scared new mama and grinning new daddy survived those first days and nights at home. Both our moms came to help us, at different times, and they were life-savers! Rebecca was a sweet baby, and made it pretty easy to learn how to be a new mama. She was quite the apple of her daddy's eye, and my little side-kick for quite a few years. We were a happy family of 3.
Table for 3? However, as Rebecca grew, we knew our family wasn't complete. We just didn't know how long it would take before our family would grow. Those waiting years were a study in contrasts. On one hand we were completely in love with a happy, grinning Rebecca, who filled our lives like a ray of sunshine. However, my body had once again taken a turn down the path of infertility. And that path was dark, and uncertain. And long.
...To be continued...