As I blogged before the night I went into labour, I was (as most 40 weeks pregnant women are) waiting for the proverbial bun to come out of the proverbial oven. I predicted many months ago that despite my March 19th due date, that my third darling would be born on March 20th, first day of 2014's spring. I more recently predicted that I would begin labouring at 4am. Well, I did end up being wrong about the time by two hours. The date, however, proved to be right on. The good news is is that I didn't predict the circumstances of her arrival. On that I would have been wildly inaccurate.
At 2am I woke up with regular uncomfortable but not-so-painful contractions. My wondering if "this was it" kept me awake so I started timing. I fell asleep in between some but they started waking me up, still not very painful. They were 7 minutes apart by 3:15 or so. I had thought that by 7 minutes apart they would be painful but they were not. So I lay awake, timing, waiting. They did become a little painful so I knew it was very likely "to be it" But instead of getting more intense they just closer together. When they were 5 minutes apart for more than an hour, I called the midwife. She advised me to wait since I didn't think they were painful enough. An hour later they were 2-3 minutes apart and hurt more. Solomon chose that time to wake up and come careening around the corner into my room (from where he was sleeping in Marley's bed), he threw himself into my bed and cuddled me. I tried to keep the grimaces off my face. I was worried because I didn't want to wake the kids up too early and now Solo was practically giddy with energy at 5am, for reasons unknown to me. Then at 6 Marley woke up too and I decided that since the kids were both up, I would get Bob up and we'd go. Bob didn't quite understand what was going on at first when I tried to wake him but Solo was pretty much vibrating with energy and telling Bob, "Wakey wakey, it's time to have the baby."
We loaded up our VAST amount of luggage (for Bob, Sage and I at the hospital and for Marley and Solo at the Duebber's). Piles of pillows, blankets, two suitcases, bags of "good guys and bad guys"... So much stuff.
I stopped being too much help because I had to pause every 1-3 minutes to deal stoically (panting and talking to myself) with the pains. Got the darlings to the Duebber's house, the Happiness Hotel at 7am and said goodbyes. My goodbyes were overly-chipper. I felt like I needed to preserve the festiveness of the occasion so that perhaps some day I will have grandchildren.
We got to Good Sam and Bob traded the van for a wheelchair at the valet. He then proceeded to do his best (but failing) to steer me without running into things. We laughed a lot. Especially when getting on the world's narrowest elevator, reserved only for expectant mothers. The big stork painted on the door didn't do much to distract from the fact that Bob had to get a running start to jam the wheelchair in.
We got processed, I was asked if Bob routinely beat me or if I'd done any illegal drugs recently (nope, nope). Pelvic exam (5cm) and we got taken to our labour and delivery room. The lady who drove my wheelchair was worse at it than Bob. I suspected for the first minute or so that she was, in fact, a crazy pregnant-lady snatcher taking me to some diabolical lab for sinister purposes. Turns out, that wasn't true. She was taking us to labor and delivery room 1 for the usual labor and delivery purposes.
The nurse came in and the student nurse with her was familiar. Turns out we had been in a psychology class together a few semesters before. I am not sure if that made her more or less interested in finer, grizzly details and tasks involving my labor (which she got to perform). Thanks Wendy! Sorry you had to leave before the baby got there. I tried.
I will make brief the telling of the next few hours. Bob and I laughed a lot (inappropriate hospital humor syndrome, it's real). I made Bob take a walk whenever they un-draped my draped areas. By noon I was 10 centimeters but after a few practice pushes, the midwife Paulette and her midwife-in-training Dee advised I "labour down" (this is midwife speak for wait-to-push). So that is what we did for an hour (besides the lady in ten was ready to push and she was better at it than me).
At 1pm "we" started pushing.
Deep cleansing breathe, hold your thighs, chin to chest, hold your breath, push! Hold it, hold it, hold it! 8...9...10. Another deep breathe and push! Hold it! Keep your butt down, don't push into your face...7..8..9..10. You gotta hold the breath!
This was repeated many times.
I got nauseated, I was starving, the baby was there, ready to be born but just not moving further down.
I was so frustrated. It had been 2.5 hours. I was not doing this right, I didn't know what to do.
There was talk of forceps but they were never used because she was in the birth canal, presenting face first.
Her heart rate was dipping during contractions, which were getting further and further apart. Her heart rate would be in the 160's than while pushing or contracting, drop to the 90's.
Two OB's were brought in to observe and consult. I didn't know who they were at first, I wanted them out of the room but then the midwife explained. Everyone (the midwives, the nurses, the OBs) agreed this was not working and the distress on the baby was a big concern, as was the large amount of meconium in the placenta, and the position of the baby. The OB started explaining what he thought we should do and I knew what was going to be suggested but still when he said it, my heart dropped. My insides became a tangle of guilt, helplessness, and FEAR.
A c-section. ON ME. The most serious medical procedure I had ever had was wisdom teeth removal. How could I possibly get major surgery? I just started praying.
They gave us their opinion and then left Bob and I to stare at each other. Me over the rim of an oxygen mask. We spoke quickly. The baby was important, neither of us really cared that it wasn't "the plan" but I was afraid and Bob was afraid. Except I had an oxygen mask to hide behind and the tears just streamed into my ears, Bob got assigned the task of bravery and he did it well. He composed himself and then he held it together. In the short minutes he and I spoke, the baby's heart rate dipped down into the 70's, things were getting more urgent. Nurses starting rushing us into surgical gear. They even found Bob an extra mask to cover up his beard. They made Bob go away while they finished prepping me and wheeled me down the short hall to the O.R. I saw myself in the overhead spherical mirror thing as we went under it. I didn't look like me. Just a person covered in hot sheets and a hair net and a mask moving very quickly with a bunch of other people down a hall.
When we got to the O.R. one of the nurse's started yelling for the residents to get in the O.R. Bob wasn't brought back to me yet. They took a "time out" identified me as the patient, the procedure being performed and by the time they brought Bob in a minute later, they had me open and were working on getting Sage out. Her heart had gone to 52 and was making a monitor ping.
I had managed not to lose my mind or yell or sob so far. Just crying quietly into my own ears and whispering how I felt to Bob, who was now sitting at my head, rubbing my hair, next to the anesthesiologist. He kept reassuring me and when he told me the baby was out, we both got quiet. Waiting to hear. He told me they were suctioning her nose and mouth. Some time passed. Finally there was a baby sound and I lost it. I couldn't see her, I couldn't see what was happening to me. All I could see was a big blue sheet and all I could feel was someone tugging me up and down.
I just kept praying. God, let it be Your will that she lives and let it be Your will that I live too.
Bob stayed by me and described the baby. "She's huge!" "She has hair!" "She has dark hair!"
Finally they suctioned her nose and mouth enough and Bob was allowed to hold her, he brought her to me and rubbed her cheek against mine. Her skin felt so hot.
I was freezing. I was tired. I was totally numb. The anesthesiologist was soothing and assured me that it was all fine and they would finish in 15 minutes. Bob was worried because the numbing stuff made my teeth chatter insanely and I was beyond tired and relieved and scared and closed my eyes. But soon they had me the way they wanted and we got to leave the O.R. They put Sage on my chest on the bed and they wheeled us back to L&D room 1. I was so happy to have her but I just could not remember how to express it at that moment, but I WAS happy.
Despite all the fear and frenzy I was most shocked by Sage's beautiful hair. True to the old wives' tale, my baby with hair had given me super heart burn (which I had not had much of with my two bald darlings). And that she could possibly be brunette in a sea of blonde cousins!
I don't remember much of what happened in the recovery room and I can only guess at the sequence of things that I do remember. My mom came and as it happened, my dad was there too but he had his own room because he had been having trouble with blood pressure. No one told me until after delivery, for obvious reasons. Ralph came. Robyn was there with Marley, Solo, Aimee, and Toby. My dad came too, wearing the same thing as me (a hospital gown and an IV). There were doughnuts and the kids got gifts from Sage. An Anna and Elsa doll for Marley and two lego kits for Solo (one with his favorite thing, the Star Wars "Roger Roger" droid). I threw up in front of everyone. I made everyone leave and to my shame, I was too tired and embarrassed to be polite about it.
Nothing was how I pictured it and I (still) can't imagine how each day will be with the restrictions on my own body and what will be needed to tend for the needs of three kids. One of them who has proven on multiple levels to be capable of great surprises. From the manner and drama of her arrival to the beautiful silky dark hair on her head.
This is not something I am wishing away. I am so blessed to have this "huge" beautiful newborn. To be here to listen to the myriad of noises and cooing sounds she makes when she sleeps, to look into the indeterminate color of her eyes, to wonder if it is the light or if they might be brown like mine or greenie-blue like Bob's, or the color of the sky like Marley and Gigi. The man that I have been getting to know even while we sort through life together being strong enough to get us through the scariest parts of the unknown. So fortunate to see the loving support so generously given and offered by the people who love us... So much evidence of God's love. So many reminders that despite how it sometimes feels, God knows what we need.
Sage Marie Winslow