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.