Sunday, September 18, 2016

Party of Four

And just like that, we became a party of four. In hardly more time than it takes for you to read this, our little boy made his much anticipated debut and our hearts expanded beyond our imaginations.

I've heard the second comes faster than the first. They ain't kiddin'. Burke was 3 days overdue, so I wasn't surprised when this guy wasn't here shortly after his 9/4 due date.

Regardless, I started to replicate a similar pattern that seemed to work on Burke's eviction: swimming, sitting on the yoga ball, and the infamous labor inducing smoothie. (Sidenote - y'all...this thing has been pinned over 12 THOUSAND times on Pinterest. I'm not entirely sure it works. So I am now terrified of the overdue mama mafia I may have created in case they're out to get me, pitchforks and all.)

I thought we might get to share a birthday, but when mine came & went without any signs of labor, I got anxious. I kept eating lots of pineapple and dates and tried some spicy cookie things that were a total failure. He wasn't budging.

Luckily, my mom was in town so she helped me stay distracted. She drove in from Arkansas "just in case" so she wouldn't miss this one's arrival. She joined me for my 9/7 check-up followed by pizza with extra oregano and 1-hour foot massages. For dinner, we had Indian street food. I started having contractions, but they dissipated once I went to bed. That was not the day. But, she got some good time in with B, playing blasters in the back yard, testing out their head lamps, and learning B's newest trick: mooning! 

Gran getting to know Grandson #2

After I was officially 1 week overdue, we had an appointment with the perinatologist on 9/12 to have an ultrasound and non-stress test. They needed to check amniotic fluid levels, take measurements, and make sure the kiddo responded to stimuli appropriately.

My biggest concern, beyond the healthy stats, was this kid's size. If you recall, Burke was 9 lbs, 7 oz at 3 days late. His size resulted in a prolonged labor and almost an emergency c-section that I thankfully avoided since dude was crowning as the c-section team scoped out the situation. Recovery was rough to say the least. We were now pushing over a week late, and I was terrified of how big this melon might be growing to be. The ultrasound confirmed that the babe's head was measuring "only" 9.6 cm...leaving a whopping 0.4 cm of "space" for him to fit through the birth canal at full 10cm dilation. Seems like a pretty tight margin for error, even if we're talking the Metric system.

They confirmed everything was a-ok in utero and that there wasn't a reason to induce. The doc's actual words were "Most women don't go over 43 weeks, so just hang in there. We'll start seeing you 2x/week if you pass 42 weeks." Don't go OVER FORTY THREE WEEKS? Oh boy. Hunker down and make the ice packs. I went to bed thinking we still had quite a ways to go before we met this kid.

He had other plans. Here's how it all went down...

At 4:00am, contractions woke me up. Nothing terrible, much like some of the false labor I'd experienced earlier on. But they were repetitive enough for me to time them. They were 30 seconds to a minute long, and coming every 6-10 minutes. But not intense yet.

4:30am: I woke Jason up to let him know I'd been having consistent contraction for the past half hour and that he might want to shower just in case we needed to head to hospital. He did. Contractions kept coming at the same pace and intensity. Jason woke my mom up to let her know we might be going to the hospital, so she started getting up so she could be home with Burke.

5:00am: I got out of the shower - which felt amazing - and contractions were only lasting 25-40 seconds now, but coming every 2-3 minutes. We called the midwife who advised us to wait it out until they were lasting a minute and were growing in intensity. We live close to the hospital, so she wasn't worried about us waiting until the last minute. A shift change was coming up at 7, so she promised to alert the next midwife on call that we might be coming in.

J packed the car, woke up my mom, and we prepped for the hospital. It was only 5 minutes down the road, so we weren't in a rush. I'd hoped to try laboring in the labor pool, and they'd told me it could take 1-2 hours to be filled, so I didn't mind getting there on the early side.

6:35am: We decided to head on to the hospital. Burke would be waking up soon, so we figured it'd be better to get out of the house before he woke up.

6:45am: At the hospital, J dropped me off in front and I headed up to reception to get checked in while he parked. The friendly security guard greeted me and said "Are we gonna have a baby today?" I responded with "That better be the reason this guy woke me up so early!"

No one was at the desk, so we had to wait a bit. Finally, got all checked in. I requested a labor tub, and she told me just to let the nurses know once I'm called back. I should have plenty of time. They were going to work on getting me in as soon as they could. Apparently, we were right in the middle of the 7am shift change. I went to the restroom and felt like I was going to be nauseous.

7:02am: My ID bracelet notes our admission time as 7:02am. I waited while J went to get the bags.
Contractions continued occasionally, but I was mostly relaxed, drinking water while I waited.

7:14am: I took this photo in the waiting room and texted my sisters at 7:16. We exchanged a few excited texts. Shortly after, J brought up the bags. It was probably another 15 minutes before we were called back to triage.

7:30am: They call us back. As we walk through the triage door, a contraction hits. I pause a minute before continuing down the hallway. The nurse smiles and directs us to the triage room directly across the hall from the nurse's station where everyone is greeting each other as they come onto their new shifts for the day.

I don the flattering hospital gown and wait on the gurney. The doctor stops by to say hello, and we joke about how we just saw him less than 18 hours prior. The midwife was on her way in.

A nurse comes in to get my vitals and says "alright, we'll see if we're gonna keep you here or not."

The midwife joins us and asks if I have a copy of my water birth certificate since it's apparently not in my file. They need that to fill the tub. Yes, I have it. Great. She puts her gloves on to perform the cervical exam. A contraction hits once I lay back on the gurney. That one hurt. I squeezed J's hand. There were 2 more like that.

7:50pm: After the cervical exam the midwife said, "Well, I don't think you're gonna get that tub."

I said, "Oh. Where are we?"

She said, "Oh," she says calmly with a twinge of disbelief, "we're at 9" and yells out the door to the nurse's station, "She's going to have this baby - we're at 9cm with a bulging bag. She needs a room now!"

J texts my sisters that I'm 9cm dilated at 7:50am.

Pandemonium ensues. (Spoiler alert: in the next 5 minutes, my water breaks, I am transported down the hall, transitioned from gurney to bed, and pop out a baby.)

Another contraction. Flurry of nurses. Lots of nurses talking. "She's going to 6. Room 6 is hers. Is 6 ready? Take her to 6. Get room 6 ready." Water breaks as they push the gurney out the triage room door. Nurses start talking of meconium, "significant meconium," "notify the NICU." I feel the baby crowning. The army of nurses led by the midwife navigate the gurney down the hallway to Delivery Room 6. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have a baby in the hallway.

J follows like a pack mule with all of our stuff in tow, not missing a step.

They wheel me into Room 6.

Nurses scramble to find the equipment. Apparently Room 6 is not quite ready for welcoming a baby. "Where's a table? Can we get one from another room stat?!" "Where's the IV?" "We aren't doing an IV - no time." This sweet sweet midwife is running the show, no question. I remember being very surprised by her assertiveness, yet politeness, since I'd only encountered her tender side thus far.

Now the nurses have to convince me to move from gurney to bed. Excuse me? Contractions are coming quickly and furiously. You want me to what?!? They might as well be asking me to pole vault in Rio. Between contractions, I manage to shift one foot and one cheek and one hand to the bed, but another contraction hits before I can fully make the move.

The midwife calmly explains to me (or so J's all a bit hazy from here out) that I can't deliver the baby with one butt cheek on the gurney and one on the bed...the baby will fall on the floor between the two beds. Seems I'm in a predicament.

I remember one of the nurses encouraging me to "just" lift my butt up a little bit more and scoot over. Seems simple enough. Unless you're holding an 8-pound bowling ball between your legs with only 0.4cm room for error of said ball falling on the floor while excruciating tidal waves of pain wash over you every 30 seconds.

Somehow, I go for it and swing the left half of my body from gurney to bed as a contraction ended. They are trying to get me into position to push. I said something about "No, I think I'm gonna do it this way." The midwife says something about not having sterile gloves on (again, the room isn't quite set up for this). Instead of settling into the bed, my body takes over, and the momentum from swinging from the gurney flips me all the way over onto my hands and knees. J asks the midwife if he should coach me to push or anything. I lunge into a contraction and the baby is out.


Now that the baby is out, he's still attached via the cord, and I'm on all fours. There are some awkward gymnastics required to situate everyone where they need to be, and the room goes quiet for a millisecond. I don't think anyone can believe this all just happened. Everyone catches their breath and then picks back up the frenzy. Where are the cord clamps. What's the meconium situation? I need scissors. What about the NICU? Why don't we have any baby blankets in here?

7:58am: J texts my sisters, "He's here" which is met with responses of disbelief.

Meanwhile, I hold the beautiful baby boy against my chest, him just as calm and perfect as can be. I think he's a little shell-shocked to be on the outside so quickly, too. J cuts the cord once it stops pulsing (and they track down some scissors). We look at each other like "weren't we just in the waiting room?"

Labor stopped as suddenly as it started, and they give me a shot of pitocin in my leg to help deliver the placenta. As soon as the babe latches my breast, my uterus contracts expelling the placenta.

Minimal bleeding, no significant tearing, no pain meds (what?!?), no stitches. Shortly thereafter, I was able to walk myself to the restroom.

Not only was there no time for an IV, there was no time for paperwork. So, once everything is calm, the nurse starts reviewing the standard questions. All which are comical at this point: are you allergic to latex? Any blood thinner medication? Family history of xyz? Fortunately, none of the above.

Phrases like "you're made for this mama" and "I've never seen it happen so fast my entire career" echo throughout the room as various nurses tend to their duties. Before long, we were headed up to the recovery floor to soon meet Big Brother.

While an unmedicated birth was something I'd once aspired to, it wasn't something I went looking for. With B, I had grand expectations of how "my" birth would go. All of these ideals in my head of what I was going to "try for" and "work towards" or whatever. Most of which flew out the window during labor's transition and excruciating pain. Then, after Burke was born so large, I was quite scared of the idea of a medication-free delivery.

For this adventure, I was committed to listening to my body for whatever it needed at the moment. Epidural, fine. Water labor, fine. And whatever may appeal in between. It was going to be a game time decision with no preconceived notions or self-imposed ideals or judgment.

But, this accidental experience has been such an unexpected blessing. I never felt the childbirth hangover. We were discharged from the hospital 30 hours after delivery. I've been able to keep up with the toddler (to a reasonable degree) - actually going on a walk to ride his new bike and going to his soccer game within 5 days of baby bro's arrival. I didn't really exercise or anything this pregnancy, so I can't attribute the quick recovery to being in excellent shape - far from it. A smaller baby, reasonable expectations, incredibly short labor, miraculous Mother Nature, and other things all contributed to this be a far less traumatic labor than what I'd previously experienced. Both incredibly special, both so unique.

Besides no time for medical intervention, everything happened so quickly that the swell of emotion I expected once they laid him on my chest was replaced with a degree of shock and an almost eery air of calmness. The absence of the physical exertion made it seem too easy. Like my body was saying "okay, now what?" I keep waiting for the emotional train to hit me, and I know it will in due time. It will hit me off guard and overpower me, and that is okay. Once my brain catches up with my body and realizes the feat we have mastered, it will likely humble me to my knees. In the meantime, I will continue to be in awe of what our bodies are capable of, of how God designed them to create, nurture, and bring forth life, of the newborn's instinct to nurse from its mother.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, for I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn for me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
Matthew 11:28-30

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the healthcare workers who supported me that morning. A few weeks before my due date, the hospital surprisingly revoked some of my doctor's privileges. Reasons were never disclosed, and it seemed like a political fight more than anything of medical concern. Some presumed it was related to the recent court judgment against this Alabama hospital. Protests were planned, media was enlisted, and, while the policies in question didn't directly affect me, I feared the environment between my practice and the hospital might not be as collaborative as it once was. I was afraid my baby would be born in the midst of tensions, or worse yet, used as a pawn in a political game should the opportunity present itself. Fortunately, the hospital provided clarifications and reinstated the privileges shortly thereafter, thereby calming the waters leading to my delivery. But it was unnerving to say the least. While the practice and the hospital still have further agreements to iron out, I cannot say enough positive things about my experience.

The sweet hat handmade by the hospital volunteer auxiliary.

The midwife was expertly prepared to facilitate my delivery. I know she didn't expect to find me dilated to 9cm when she entered that triage room, but she did not skip a beat from that point forward. She commanded the delivery room with a calm assertiveness in the midst of potential chaos. Her gentle spirit hung in the air, and I had zero doubts baby & I were in expert hands. 
Had I delivered at another facility or with another practice, there's a strong chance I would have likely done so on my back in "the right" position. Likely delaying labor, tearing, or requiring additional pushing or intervention. Instead, I met the little guy in the quickest possible amount of time with minimal resistance. The team put our safety & urgency above typical protocol. I felt like I was able to birth the way God built me to, and that's empowering. And to know that a team of women in that room supported my choice to do so was liberating. 

I am grateful for a healthy boy. I am grateful for a strong, supportive partner. I am grateful for the proud big brother that is my firstborn. I am grateful for the delivery team. I am grateful for this experience. And I am grateful that I get to "do life" as this party of four. I cannot imagine it any other way.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My stance on all of this

While everyone else is sharing their mind about the latest tragedies and how it ignites the issue of gun control in our country and how that translates into some political showdown, my heart aches.

My heart is aching for the victims and their families, and I cannot help but internalize it and think "What if this happened at the school down the block?" "What if I was one of the mom's reading her child's last text from a place they felt safe?" "What if I had to break the news to my child that his friend had fallen victim?" While I hope those remain "What if's" I never ever ever have to answer, I have had to do some soul-searching to figure how I feel about the issues at hand.

That's me on the far right with the braids and awesome flannel after someone killed a deer at Thanksgiving circa 1988. I'm sure we kids had a lot to do with it, especially the one in the pink raincoat (who's former lunchbox is now Mom's gun case).

Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of guns. Maybe fan is a strong word, but I don't have anything against them. I've been around guns my entire life, without issue. Born and raised in Arkansas, I joined my dad for pre-dawn hunting trips as a little girl. The opening day of deer season was a school holiday. I won a .22 rifle playing BINGO at my dad's company picnic when I was 10 (which I proudly swapped for a 6-inch black & white TV with AM/FM radio since I already had a .22 -- thankyaverymuch). I won the Annie Oakley award at camp when I was 13. And I can still hold my own shooting clays with the guys. When I first moved to Atlanta and lived in the hood, my roommate landlord kept a pistol at the house - my requirement was that if she felt the need to have a gun in the house that she be OK if I felt the need to use it, and she happily obliged. My mom's a card-carrying member of the NRA - probably the only Methodist pastor who carries her gun in a pink case whose former life was toting my little sister's lunch to elementary school at the local Baptist church. And we've taken shooting lessons together.

That's Pastor Pat at shooting camp.
Don't mess with her.
I am FINE with guns. I respect them. My stance has always been that if you're gonna have a gun, be comfortable with using it. A gun you're scared of using is the most dangerous one. I'm all for responsible gun ownership. Responsible. That's where I think we've gone awry.

While the Annie Oakley side of me loves the thrill of pulling the trigger and hearing the beer can target "ping", the Mom in me cringes when I see my 3 year old run down the hall making blasting noises. It breaks my heart to know that for the past year I've been teaching him "What do we do when you see a gun? Hide. Run and hide." That should not be one of the first lessons I have to teach my son, yet it's one we repeat regularly. As often as "please take your plate to the sink."

I am scared to death. Scared to death that protecting my own kids is out of my hands. We have all the time and energy in the world to argue, but it isn't doing a damned thing.

My three-year-old is obsessed with bad guys and loves "getting" them - whether it's with a light saber or his Karate Kid crane kick or is super powers. But also imaginary guns and water guns. I've seen him running around with water guns playing with his friends, and it thrills me to see him having a good time, but it makes me panic inside to see him take to the trigger so readily. With another little boy on the way, I'm sure there are lots of good guy vs. bad guy bouts to be held on our lawn, but it scares the shit out of me to think I'll soon have two precious boys with an innocent affinity for shooting and blasting and ka-powing. Part of it is boys will be boys, right? I'm one of 3 girls, so I don't really know. I played with Barbies, but I didn't turn out to be a size 0, blonde, have an elevator in my house, or drive a convertible, so I'm sure it'll all be okay, right?

What pains me is the debate that will never end: protect the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Okay, what about the Declaration of Independence...which outlines the right of LIFE first and foremost and pre-dates the Bill of Rights by fifteen years? Which is more important? The right of my child to go to school in a safe place? The right of mine to know he'll come home unscathed by flying bullets? The right of a child to ride his bike down the street free from the risk of gunfire? Or the right of someone to recklessly abuse a man-given right to protect himself? The 2nd Amendment right was for self-protection. When someone walks into a crowded school, theater, night club, or mall and starts randomly picking off bystanders, that's not self-protection. That's not a hunt in the forest providing food for his family. That's evil. And there's far too much evil in this world today to just cross our arms and pout that we have the right to own a gun.

I'm not asking anyone to take away the right to own a gun, but let's use some sense.

  • Need to have a gun? Take a test. Get a permit. 
  • Semi-automatic weapons have no civilian purpose. 
  • Those with significant mental illness have zero business purchasing high-powered life-ending artillery. Let's do something to address the mental illness.
  • Guns are stored in child-friendly homes loaded and unlocked. Could we require insurance policies on the damages guns inflict to encourage responsible ownership?
  • There are very broad limits to the amount of ammunition one can stockpile, much less purchase in a single transaction. Yet we limit the amount of Sudafed one can buy.
We require you to have a license to drive a car, and no, "operating an automobile" is not outlined in the Bill of Rights, but the right of LIFE is unalienable. Which means, according to our forefathers, it can't be taken away. Yet, it too often is. By people who took advantage of the 2nd Amendment and committed a horrendous act. And most always the victims are innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, likely pursuing another inalienable right: the right to pursue happiness. What are we doing to ensure that right isn't taken away?

We require you to be of a certain age to consume alcohol - some might argue that interferes with the right to liberty. So should we open the floodgates and let a bunch of drunk toddlers start shooting high-powered weapons as they drive down the highway?  Heck, those kids deserve to get to do what they want, too. I don't think so.

I have zero problem completing an application or taking a test if I want to purchase a gun. I have nothing to hide. And I'm not paranoid enough to think the government will put me on some watch list or care that it's none of their business. I trust the DOT to pave the streets I drive upon each day. I trust the FAA to regulate the airline I fly and ensure my safety is at the forefront. I trust the Board of Education to educate my child in a safe environment. I trust the FDIC to insure my financial institution. Do I love every decision the government agencies make? Of course not. Do I follow blindly? No. But I know we must do something. I know we can't continue the way we have been and expect change. I know sometimes we have to compromise, and put others ahead of our own selfish wishes. If I have to give up the ability to walk into a Walmart on Tuesday to buy a gun without a due diligence process, so be it.

I don't see this as a black and white issue. I see it as a compromise. You aren't giving up the right to bear arms. You're preserving the right to life. And quality of life. And, just like the "hide when you see a gun" lesson we're teaching our son, we're also teaching him about compromises.